He admits that it was wrong. But the “sexual contact” that got Jeffrey Poulton fired from Columbus schools this year –– and led the North Fork district to begin the firing process last week –– shouldn’t be considered sex, he said.
In a letter to the news media, Poulton, 44, publicly defended himself for the first time since being dismissed from Yorktown Middle School in February. When the North Fork school board found out about that case, members made plans to fire him last week.
“I made a mistake, I suffered the consequences and I accepted responsibility for my actions,” he wrote. “Yet for some reason, that doesn’t seem to be enough and I find myself forced to write this letter addressing these issues.”
Among a list of offenses, the Columbus district fired him for having “sexual contact” at school with teacher Anne E. Fulkert. The pair met between classes to kiss, the district found, and passed sexual notes at school.
“Columbus City Schools considers kissing to be ‘sexual contact,’ hence the wording of the charges against us,” Poulton wrote. The two both told district investigators that they had never had sex at school.
But the district found that they went beyond kissing.
In his own testimony at a disciplinary hearing, Poulton said that Fulkert once unbuckled his belt and got on her knees in her classroom, as if to perform oral sex. They both laughed and parted ways, Poulton said.
As a Valentine’s Day gift, according to testimony in his disciplinary case, he gave Fulkert sex lubricant in the school parking lot, and the principal later found it in her classroom. The district later found that he gave her “a gift of a sexual nature at school.”
Once, Fulkert said, Poulton reached up her shirt at school, after classes. He said he didn’t remember that.
District records also show that Poulton was accused of using students to carry notes. He denies that.
“On one single occasion I had a folder containing field-trip rosters delivered to me by a student which had a personal note in it asking me about dinner,” Poulton wrote, adding that he didn’t respond.
However, the two frequently passed notes at school, along with emails and text messages, records show. Some were sexually graphic, including one Poulton wrote while he monitored detention at school.
Reached by phone yesterday, Poulton declined to explain his letter further. He did not say whether he considers anything he did at school “sexual contact.” But he said it’s unfair that the case has been described as a “sex affair” by media.
Ultimately, Fulkert took the case to the district after the relationship soured and she found he had been seeing another woman. Fulkert was suspended for 30 days and agreed to quit after last school year.
The Columbus schools reported Poulton to the Ohio Department of Education for teacher misconduct, but he has not been disciplined. When he recently was hired as assistant principal at Utica, the school board didn’t know the details of his past. When board members learned, they began the termination process.
The board released a statement last week that said the district “has taken steps to immediately end the services for the assistant principal’s position.”
Yesterday, Poulton said only that he has been placed on administrative leave and expects to be “staff-reduced.” He has not said whether he would appeal the decision, as he did in Columbus. In that case, an attorney hired to hear the case sided with Columbus schools.
“He and Ms. Fulkert engaged in the sort of behavior that one would have expected from the students at this troubled school,” she wrote, “and that would certainly have resulted in disciplinary action against any student caught doing these things.”
By Collin Binkley - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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