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STATE PANEL WON’T TAKE ACTION AGAINST FIRED SEVIER TEACHER

SHARE STATE PANEL WON’T TAKE ACTION AGAINST FIRED SEVIER TEACHER

The Utah Professional Practices Commission won't pursue action against a former Sevier School District teacher named in a sexual harassment complaint and whose employment was terminated by the district's Board of Education.

Ronnie K. Winegar, who was accused by a student in the initial complaint, said he is happy with the commission's decision, adding "I was never given the chance to answer the allegations before district officials until after the termination of employment was ordered. At the Practices Commission hearing was the first time I had a chance to tell my side.""The hearing panel did not determine that there was enough evidence to take action against you," said a commission letter sent to Winegar and signed by Robert C. Mouritsen, executive secretary. "The commission considers the matter closed."

Winegar was fired Feb. 13 by the Sevier Board of Education. He filed a civil suit against the board in 6th District Court in March alleging he was entitled to damages because of civil rights violations, damage to his reputation and loss of income. A monetary amount was not included.

The suit was dismissed July 7, however, with the stipulation that it could be refiled later. Winegar said he would either refile or ask to reinstate the original suit after further consultations with attorneys.

Court records show neither side responded to a June 14 letter informing them the case would be considered July 6. Neither Winegar nor a school board representative appeared at the session.

Winegar said he did not see the order dismissing the suit, saying two attorneys were involved in his behalf and that the notice was sent to the wrong one.

In a news release shortly after the termination, school board President Jerold Johnson said Winegar's dismissal was for a "valid cause" as determined in an investigation by a designee of Sevier School District Superintendent Brent Thorne.

Thorne said when a district terminates a teacher's employment for cause, the case is automatically referred to the Utah Professional Practices Commission. He termed some media information about the case "misleading" because "the commission acts only regarding probation or termination and not as to guilt or innocence" of an educator.

Sevier District officials said a commission panel conducts hearings involving termination of teachers or administrators involved in alleged criminal, moral or professional misconduct.

Thorne said the initial complaint against Winegar was filed with the school principal. District policy requires that a principal refer such accusations to the superintendent, who then makes a recommendation to the board.

Winegar is now operating a small grocery store in Monroe, the town in which he taught and coached at South Sevier High School until his termination.