State commission reprimands teachers for offensive comments, physical altercation

Idaho’s Professional Standards Commission (PSC) took action Thursday against eight teachers who violated the state’s Code of Ethics for public educators.

The standards commission is an 18-member volunteer board made up of teachers, school administrators and higher education officials, who have the authority to approve, suspend and revoke teaching and administrative licenses in Idaho.

The commission revoked and suspended licenses for a range of violations, from sexual assault and domestic violence, to offensive language and a physical altercation between a teacher and student.

Below are summaries of the complaints against the educators and the board’s disciplinary decisions.

Jeff Wilkes — Teton School District

Last year, Wilkes engaged in a physical altercation with students at an overnight wrestling tournament in Challis, Idaho, according to the complaint. 

Wilkes was a physical education teacher and coach at Teton High School. During a room check, Wilkes became angered by a student’s joke. The situation escalated to the point where Wilkes restrained a student with a towel, whipped his thigh, and punched another student in the back, the complaint said.

The PSC revoked Wilkes’ teaching license.

Eric Popely — Pocatello-Chubbuck School District

In 2021, Popely was sentenced to 14 years in prison for sexually abusing a child, according to reporting from the Idaho State Journal.

Popely was a special education teacher at Highland High School. He also held an English as a second language teaching endorsement. The full story on Popely’s arrest and conviction can be found here.

The PSC permanently revoked his teaching license.

Robby D. Hindberg — Boise School District

The complaint states that Hindberg failed his professional responsibility when he directed an offensive joke at a student.

Hindberg is a math teacher at Borah High School. After the student would not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, he said, “I bet if that was the pledge of Mexico you would stand,” according to the complaint. Hindberg knew the student had recently visited Mexico. He also pulled the student’s mask off her face and released it, allowing it to snap back, the state said.

The PSC will issue a letter of reprimand and will require him to take a cultural responsiveness course.

Adrien Coronado — Boise School District

The complaint states that Coronado used offensive, politically motivated language toward a student. 

Coronado was teaching a marketing class at Timberline High School when the incident occurred. With his class, he discussed a student’s t-shirt that said “Black lives matter,” which is a racially charged issue, the state said. He used the phrase “all lives matter.” The student felt targeted and unsafe, according to the complaint.

The PSC will issue a letter of reprimand and will require him to take a cultural responsiveness course.

Allan S. Fray — White Pine Charter School

The complaint states that Fray violated his teaching contract by offering his resignation in the middle of a school year. 

Fray was employed as a first grade teacher at White Pine Charter School. The day after receiving a performance improvement plan, Fray resigned and provided two weeks notice. A performance plan provides supervised coaching and additional training.

The PSC suspended Fray’s teaching license for one year.

Douglas M. Kappen — South Dakota

The complaint states that Kappen pleaded guilty and was convicted in 2022 of felony domestic violence in South Dakota. He held an Idaho teaching license but was not working in the state. The PSC revoked Kappen’s license. 

Emma Harrison — South Dakota

The complaint states that Harrison falsified certification documents from New Jersey to South Dakota. She held an Idaho teaching license but was not working in the state. The PSC suspended her license until she resolves the issue in South Dakota.

Zachery Denison — Utah

The complaint states that Denison was charged with raping a 14-year-old student in Utah. He held an Idaho teaching license but was not working in the state. The PSC permanently revoked his license.

Fourteen new case reviews

The PSC’s executive committee reviewed 14 new cases in an executive session that will be officially presented at the April meeting. In four of those cases, members found no probable cause for further investigation; in six cases, three suspensions and three letters of reprimand are warranted; in the final four cases, they decided to conduct more investigation. The state will send letters to each teacher notifying him or her of the latest decisions.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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