Teacher accused of abuse of child

An Orchard Hill Elementary teacher accused of placing his hand inside a kindergarten girl's underwear last school year may soon face a civil lawsuit and the loss of his teacher's license, but he won't face criminal prosecution.

George Peter Kuhn was removed from the classroom immediately after the child complained about the touching on May 7, 2009. School officials placed Kuhn on paid leave the same day and called police to do a criminal investigation, said Phoenix-Talent schools Superintendent Ben Bergreen.

The Phoenix-Talent School Board fired Kuhn Sept. 7, 2009, effective retroactively to Aug. 24. Orchard Hill is geographically in Medford but belongs to the Phoenix-Talent School District.

During the 2008-2009 school year, Kuhn allegedly allowed female students to sit on his lap while he rubbed their bodies, according to a complaint filed by the school district with the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

The commission, which licenses teachers, continues to investigate the complaint. Based on its findings, the commission could revoke Kuhn's teaching license or impose some other type of discipline.

The complaint states that on May 7, 2009, a female student accused Kuhn of rubbing her chest area under her clothing and placing his hand inside her pants and underwear. The student instructed him to stop and got off his lap, the complaint said.

She then said she would tell the school principal, according to the complaint. Kuhn allegedly "pinky promised" that he would stop touching her if she wouldn't report him, the complaint states.

Medford police interviewed the girl twice to gather evidence for a criminal prosecution, but the Jackson County District Attorney chose not to charge Kuhn because of inconsistencies in the girl's account, said David Orr, a Jackson County deputy district attorney.

"If we were going to put on a case of evidence, it would be just her testimony," Orr said. "We didn't feel we could prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. When we think it's not provable, it didn't seem like a good idea to put her through a trial, plus the very fact that the story was inconsistent."

Orr said he initially determined that the case couldn't be prosecuted. Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston then reviewed the evidence and came to the same conclusion. Finally, Orr, Huddleston and David Hoppe, another deputy district attorney, watched video of the girl's accounts together and concurred that the case couldn't be proven.

"It was really heartbreaking because the district attorney decided he didn't have enough evidence to press charges," the girl's mother said. "The school district felt they had the right to dismiss him. At the same time, I felt not enough was done."

The girl's mother filed a tort claim with the Phoenix-Talent School District in December for failing to protect her daughter. In law, a tort is a civil wrongdoing for which a court can provide a remedy.

Tom Petersen, the mother's attorney, said a civil lawsuit would likely be filed shortly.

The 6-year-old girl who accused Kuhn has been in counseling since the incident, her mother said.

It's unclear whether Kuhn has found employment since he was fired. Bergreen said no employers had contacted the school district to inquire about him.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.

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