State commission disciplines teachers for spanking, slurs and sexual misconduct

The Idaho Professional Standards Commission last week revoked certificates for, or issued sanctions against, a handful of teachers accused of lewd conduct, sexual battery of a child, using derogatory slurs and spanking a student.

Among those disciplined were Mike Fitch, a former Fruitland High principal who was acquitted after being charged with sexual battery of a coworker in 2019, and former Eagle High coach Jeff Ranstrom, who is in prison after pleading guilty to sexual battery of a student.

Mike Fitch – Certificates revoked

Mike Fitch

Fitch resigned as Fruitland High School principal in 2019 while facing criminal charges of misdemeanor sexual battery against a school coworker and soliciting prostitution. A Canyon County jury acquitted Fitch on those charges.

Fitch denied criminal wrongdoing in the case, but said he sent explicit photos, videos and emails to the woman, sometimes during the school day while both were supposed to be working. The commission found him in violation of the state’s educator code of ethics, including Principle X, which stipulates against “taking or possessing images (digital, photographic or video) of colleagues of a harassing, confidential or sexual nature.”

Neither Fitch nor his lawyers immediately responded to requests for comment Thursday. Fitch and the Fruitland School District are subjects of a federal lawsuit filed by Megan Fenton, who says the district retaliated against her after she reported Fitch’s alleged harassment.

Jeff Ranstrom – Permanently Revoked

Jeff Ranstrom

Ranstrom, a former teacher and basketball coach at Eagle High School, pleaded guilty last year to sexual battery of a child in 2019. The Professional Standards Commission permanently revokes the certificates of educators who are found guilty of crimes against children, including sexual battery.

Ranstrom resigned from Eagle High and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the Idaho Statesman reported.

Todd Jensen – Letter of Reprimand

Jensen, an athletic director in the Murtaugh School District, was sanctioned for a “failure to maintain a professional relationship with students through the use of inappropriate language.”

The commission complaint says that during a PE/weights class, Jensen took a student’s phone, opened Snapchat and took a picture of another student as they were leaving the locker room. Jensen wrote “fag” on the picture, then sent it to another student in the class, the complaint says. Jensen signed a stipulation admitting  he had violated the state’s code of ethics for educators.

Jensen, who still works at the Murtaugh district, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Renee Norris – Letter of Reprimand

Norris, a teacher at Caldwell’s Lincoln Elementary School during the 2019-20 school year, is accused of spanking a student while she was changing his diaper. She said the action was “impulsive,” and according to the complaint, “the force applied to the student left a handprint.”

A personnel report from the Caldwell School District indicates Norris taught special education, and the district terminated her employment before March 2020.

Amy Poole – Letter of Reprimand

Poole, a special education teacher, resigned from the Fremont Joint School District after three vape cartridges containing THC were found in her desk, according to the professional standards complaint. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana.

The commission document doesn’t discuss who found the cartridges or any other circumstances surrounding the situation. She is accused of violating Principle III of the code of conduct, which says professional educators should refrain from the abuse of alcohol or drugs during the course of professional practice.

Sami Edge

About Sami Edge

Reporter Sami Edge, a University of Oregon graduate, joined Idaho Education News in 2019. She is a 2019 Education Writers Association fellow reporting on Latino student outcomes in Idaho. She also is a 2019 American Press Institute fellow. She can be reached at [email protected].

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