AP NEWS

Whiteaker’s attorney curious to see evidence as accusers and teacher’s supporters lay out their stances

February 16, 2018

At a packed meeting Tuesday evening, Yuba City Unified School District board members announced they would initiate termination proceedings against physical education teacher Jim Whiteaker, who is accused of inappropriately touching a female student.

Now his attorney says they will request an administrative hearing to consider evidence used by the board in its decision.

“We’re very anxious to see the discovery regarding the evidence which supposedly would substantiate the allegations against Mr. Whiteaker,” Roberto Marquez said Wednesday.

Whiteaker has 30 days to request an evidentiary hearing.

At the Jan. 30 meeting, board members announced they were directing staff to prepare a statement of charges against the teacher for his behavior in a Jan. 22 incident at Yuba City High School. Whiteaker was accused of inappropriately touching a girl’s buttocks while intervening in an interaction between two students.

Whiteaker denies the allegations, but other former students have since spoken up about past alleged misconduct.

Marquez said he does not believe those past allegations are legitimate or that they were documented near or about the time of the incident.

“It’s going to be interesting for the school if they’re going to try to use alleged past incidents to base their decision on terminating Mr. Whiteaker because that would then expose them to civil liability for negligent retention,” Marquez said.

Marquez said it’s also unfair to try to fight allegations from 20 years ago, as Whiteaker wouldn’t be able to dispute them with affirmative proof; but merely denial.

Marquez said he believes the past allegations are lies, but does not know what the motivation would be.

“I can’t speculate as to what their motivation is, but it would not surprise me if the allegations are a rewriting of history,” Marquez said.

Some of those former students making accusations, or their parents, have also taken to the podium at meetings to review those past allegations and to question what they

consider the school district’s lack of action.

District spokespeople were not reached in time to comment in this report. But board President Lonetta Riley denied the district deliberately avoided the issue.

“I want to assure you that this board has heard your voices,” Riley told the audience on Tuesday. “There have been accusations against the board that things were done and we didn’t take action. I can assure you that there are at least three of us who have been on this board 15-plus years. We have never had a concern like this about the individual in question brought before this board.”

Whiteaker’s accusers stick to their claims

• Andrea Foster, whose husband spoke on her behalf at the Jan. 30 meeting, recalled a 1998 incident in which she alleged Whiteaker inappropriately touched her.

“This cannot be tolerated in our schools or society any longer,” Foster said. “I’m so proud of the young women who had the courage and have been bold in coming forward to tell their stories. It’s because of you that I felt comfortable sharing mine.”

• Shaneiko Cummins had a statement read at the prior board meeting. She said that in 2013, Whiteaker, who was her PE teacher, grabbed her arm and held it up her back – a wrestling move, he allegedly told her, as she was interested in wrestling.

She said she told him to stop and begged him to let go as she felt pain in her shoulder, which she later needed surgery on. She also shared her struggles with depression as a result.

Cummins told the administration she wanted to press charges but then-principal Martin Ramirez assured her an investigation was underway. She is unaware that any investigation actually took place, and said Whiteaker faced no disciplinary actions.

• Pantera Fridley said that since she recalled her experiences at a prior meeting, she’s received an outpouring of support as well as hearing that other students experienced the same inappropriate conduct. She said in 2014, Whiteaker made her do jumping jacks for no reason while her classmates went to the track. And when she refused and began to leave for the principal’s office, he said he was just kidding and allegedly pulled her back by her arm.

“I would love to see Mr. Whiteaker sit right there and tell me I’m lying,” Fridley said.

• Crystal Bailey had someone read a statement on behalf of her and her daughter, alleging that Whiteaker videotaped her daughter and her friend from the waist-down in 2014. She said not only was the administration aware of it, but that Whiteaker admitted it, saying he was videotaping her not participating in class.

But when asked to show the video, Whiteaker allegedly said administration told him to delete it, which they also allegedly disputed, according to the mother’s statement.

• Mary DeWitt spoke for the first time Tuesday night, on behalf of her daughter, a Yuba City High School graduate.

She said around 20 years ago, Whiteaker grabbed her daughter’s buttocks as she walked past him outside the gymnasium. DeWitt said her daughter and another student, who had allegedly experienced the same conduct, gave statements to the school, with Whiteaker facing no repercussions.

DeWitt challenged Whiteaker’s supporters Tuesday evening.

“For all of you sitting here and you’re vouching for his character… you’re complicit and you should be ashamed,” she said.

Supporters vouch for Whiteaker’s character

Supporters of Whiteaker also showed up at the meeting. Whiteaker, who is also a Sutter County supervisor, had supporters vouch for his character and called the allegations lies.

• Janae Meraz – a Yuba City High School graduate and friend of the family – recalled a time when Whiteaker bought the cheerleading team a meal while they were at a competition, and also provided support when their bus crashed on the way home.

“I’ve learned what the definition of a role model is, and that’s Jim Whiteaker,” Meraz said. “Mr. Whiteaker has shown me why he went into teaching, and that’s to help others.”

• Arlene Montna, who said she’s known Whiteaker since he was young, blasted news coverage of the allegations.

“He hasn’t had his day in court yet but he’s been convicted by the media,” Montna said. “The Appeal-Democrat and Dispatch have made sure that this man is really a Jack the Ripper.”

• Isabella Garcia-Schmidt said high school girls twist their words and that she’s disappointed that a community that loved him has now turned on him.

“It’s not right to put an honest and hardworking man through these false accusations,” Schmidt said.

• Shirley Gabhart called the allegations lies and said they’re being made to the tune of money. She also said the women’s movement was getting out of hand and, at this rate, women won’t be hired for jobs for fear of sexual harassment claims.

“I have been praying for all the haters,” Gabhart said. “I don’t understand how people are so hateful and want to ruin an honest man’s life and reputation with such horrible, false accusations.”

Gabhart also questioned the most recent victim’s credibility, saying she has cursed at several of her teachers and has been sent to the office 11 times since September, and that Cummins was already injured before Whiteaker’s alleged wrestling move injured her shoulder. It was not clear where Gabhart received her information.

• Trish Lucich, who stood with others on behalf of the high school’s physical education department, spoke in support of Whiteaker.

Immediately after the most recent incident, she said, the students’ teacher questioned the girls about what happened and three times they said Whiteaker kneed one of the girl’s hips. But when they got to the office, they changed the story, accusing him of grabbing one of the girl’s buttocks, the PE teachers said.

“A handful of people, who have personal vendettas against Jim Whiteaker are leading a smear campaign to get him fired,” the teachers stated.

Lucich claimed that none of the PE teachers have ever had any of the girls come to them with complaints against Whiteaker, to which a parent stood up asking to respond and others accused the teachers of lying.