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Jury acquits Oak Harbor teacher of assault charge

A jury has acquitted North Whidbey Middle School teacher Rodger Jordan of assaulting a 12-year-old student last spring.

Jordan, 57, had been charged with fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor, for picking the girl off the floor in the hallway of the school after hours.

Jordan’s attorney, Michael Andrews of the Everett firm Cogdill, Nicholson and Rein, said the veteran teacher feels completely vindicated and wants to put the matter behind him.

The main issue of the two-day trial in Island County District Court was whether Jordan’s actions toward the student amounted to reasonable discipline by a teacher or criminal assault.

Jordan freely admitted all along, Andrews said, to police and school administration that he did pick the girl up. But he maintained, and the jury agreed, that the physical contact was not criminal.

“It was a case of moderate and reasonable discipline that a teacher is entitled to by statute,” Andrews said.

Both the student and Jordan testified in court to an incident in which the girl told her friend to push Jordan a couple of times in the hallway. It was a day or two later that Jordan encountered the girl in the hallway and picked her up, telling her he was going to lock her in his classroom unless she talked about the pushing incident.

The girl’s friend pulled the student away from Jordan and they both ran away down the hallway.

Jordan denied an allegation by the student that he put his hand in her crotch area while he had her off the ground.

Deputy Island County Prosecutor Josh Choate said he was surprised and disappointed by the verdict. “If the case came back across my desk today,” he said, “I would try it again.”

During her testimony, the girl broke down and cried a couple of times, but was also surprising feisty in defending herself when Andrews questioned her.

She said she felt “violated and uncomfortable” by Jordan’s actions.

Jordan has been on administrative leave from the school district since the incident. He will remain on leave throughout this school year and then will retire.

Peter Szalai, co-president of the Oak Harbor Education Association, said union members are upset by how the police, school district and the Whidbey News-Times handled the allegations.

“There was a rush to judgement,” he said. “His reputation is shattered.”

Szalai claimed Jordan was “ambushed” by members of the school administration, who didn’t provide him with all the relevant information and “leaked it out piecemeal.”

“Loyalty is a one-way street, from teachers to the administration but not from the administration to the teachers...” he said. “We’re very disappointed that the district chose not to support one of its employees who worked for the district for 28 and a half years.”

Andrews said he had no comment on whether Jordan is considering a civil lawsuit against the school district.

Jordan could not be reached for comment. School Superintendent Rick Schulte did not return a phone call.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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