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Four teachers fear for jobs after reporting sex harassment

ST. PAUL—Four St. Paul Public Schools teachers say they fear for their jobs after reporting a colleague for numerous incidents of sexual harassment.

Teacher Bruce Goodwin was suspended for two days in November 2015 after admitting he sent a woman co-worker at Ben Mays Elementary a photo of his penis with the caption, "Make it grow please," according to a discipline letter the district released in response to a records request.

Goodwin also admitted he repeatedly solicited hugs from a second woman teacher at the school.

Months later, records show, the district agreed to pay $33,000 to a woman teacher at Ben Mays to resolve unspecified claims. Under the agreement, the district said she wouldn't have to work in the same building as an unnamed "accused teacher."

The woman now works at a different St. Paul district school. The settlement agreement with the district bars her from discussing it in public. She did not return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.

One-third of the teacher's settlement went to Bloomington attorney Phil Villaume, who said he couldn't comment on it.

Villaume now represents four veteran teachers who had a hand in the harassment reports against Goodwin.

During a news conference at Villaume's office Thursday, the four women said they were not targets of Goodwin's harassment. But they said they're angry he's still employed and worried that the district will retaliate against them.

Paddy Boyt, who teaches an Ben Mays, said her job was reduced to half-time in 2016 soon after her third meeting with human resources about the harassment. She said the district later told her falsely that certain jobs she was interested in had already been filled.

And last month, Boyt said, she was involuntarily transferred to a different school.

As she was packing up her classroom, she said, "I'm thinking, why is this happening to me?"

Boyt and fellow Ben Mays teacher Diane Thomas have retained Villaume to guard against any retaliation.

"We will be watching closely to see what develops after this news conference," Villaume said.

Teachers Janey Moe and Susan McNamara also spoke Thursday.

The four women said Goodwin sexually harassed at least four younger teachers in 2015.

Villaume said it's "ludicrous" he wasn't fired.

In a statement Thursday, the school district said the harassment did not occur on school property, did not involve students and was thoroughly investigated.

The district denied retaliating against anyone who reported the behavior and said it has the right to transfer teachers "to meet the needs of the students it serves."

The district said it's investigated two complaints against Goodwin. The other was closed with no disciplinary action taken.

Goodwin now teaches at Galtier Elementary.

In a phone interview Thursday, Goodwin said he's been a "model teacher" since he was suspended and made to undergo counseling in 2015.

"I believe that I am a very good teacher and an asset to the district. I've made a mistake, I've admitted to it, I've paid my due justice to it. This happened, what, three years ago? And I've been a model teacher since and plan to be from this point forward," he said.

Goodwin said the state licensing board last month required him to take sexual harassment counseling in order to keep his teaching license.

"I will be pursuing that," he said.

Goodwin added that the school district has instructed him not to discuss the allegations against him.

"I've never had a chance to tell my complete side of the story. There's a lot more about this than I'm being allowed to tell," he said.

In a statement later released through Education Minnesota, the teachers' labor union, Goodwin said his "behavior was hurtful, although I did not intend it to be. ... I willingly participated in counseling because I recognized I had formed relationships that were unprofessional and unhealthy."