State commission takes action against teachers for sexual misconduct, inappropriate relationships

(UPDATED, 9:46 a.m. Friday with final decisions.)

The Idaho Professional Standards Commission took administrative action Friday against four teachers who violated the state’s Code of Ethics for educators. Violations include sexual abuse of a student, and hitting a student with a PVC pipe.

One teacher’s certificate was revoked, and two others were suspended.

The PSC is an 18-member volunteer board of mostly teachers, school administrators and higher education officials. It has the authority to approve, suspend and revoke teaching and administrative licenses in Idaho.

The PSC originally planned to take action Thursday, but moved the determinations to the second day of its two-day meeting due to time concerns.

At least four other ethics cases are pending, two involving sexual misconduct allegations. These cases are likely to go in front of the PSC in December.

Patrick Smith – Bonneville School District

Smith was convicted of felony injury to a child after he sexually abused a 17-year-old student. His original charge of child sexual battery was reduced as part of a plea agreement. He will not have to register as a sex offender.

The former Technical Careers High School teacher initiated a pattern of intensifying sexual harassment against the victim, which culminated in him pulling the student against himself and forcing his hand down her pants, the Post Register reported in 2021.

The PSC permanently revoked Smith’s certificate, an action that’s required for all cases involving crimes against children, including felony injury to a child.

Dana Strong – Hagerman School District

Strong, a former educator in the district, engaged in text and email communications that were “personal, unprofessional, and unbecoming of an educator,” according to the official complaint filed by chief certification officer Bethani Studebaker.

The PSC voted to suspend Strong’s certificate for one year. He will also have to take an ethics course and boundaries course.

Brady Swallow – Homedale School District

While working as a physical education and weights teacher, Swallow hit a student on the leg with a PVC pipe, according to the PSC’s administrative complaint. The complaint does not outline details of the incident.

Swallow’s certificate was suspended for one year, and he will have to take an ethics course and boundaries course.

Randall Dalzell – Middleton School District

Dalzell breached his contract with the district, an ethics violation. 

The PSC voted to issue Dalzell a letter of reprimand and require that he take an ethics course, along with a business course that focuses on contracts.

Future cases to consider sexual abuse, fraudulent forms

Four pending cases will likely go before the PSC in December. EdNews obtained details about these cases through a public records request.

Former Utah teacher Zachery Denison was arrested and charged with four counts of rape, after he allegedly initiated a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Denison was 26 at the time, and was the victim’s teacher and coach.

Though Denison taught in Utah, and later Colorado, he received a teaching certificate in Idaho. The out-of-state charges are likely to result in revocation of his certificate.

The second case involves Eric Popely, a former teacher at Pocatello’s Highland High School. He is in prison for sexually abusing a nonverbal student, and was sentenced to four to 14 years last December, according to the East Idaho News. These charges are likely to result in revocation of Popely’s certificate.

Another pending case deals with a teacher who submitted fraudulent forms to verify her New Jersey teaching certificate in South Dakota. South Dakota’s finding could impact the status of her Idaho certificate, which she obtained in August 2021.

The final case involves a teacher who breached his contract.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story. 

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber is a former reporter with Ed News. She is a College of Idaho graduate and was born and raised in the Treasure Valley.

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