Questions for school board candidate Jesse Truett

Published October 17, 2013 by justicewg
Truett yard sign

Truett yard sign

(Edit – see the end of this post for my reaction to the TVN story about Truett, and some reaction after the candidate night.)

The primary issue that I and many others have with Jesse Truett is that he is leaving us a lot of unanswered questions. I have been trying to contact Mr. Truett, and I get no reply. Maybe this post will prompt some action from him. I get the feeling that he has a core group of supporters who are telling him “you don’t need to answer to anyone”. Mr. Truett may get those votes, but from an unscientific survey I think there are are a lot more people in Grandview who want some answers and are not going to vote for him without them.

This Dispatch story has the most information about the circumstances surrounding his leaving the principal position at the high school. The short version – Truett suddenly resigned with a weak explanation about personal and health reasons, later it came out that he started an affair with an 18 year old student while he was a 23 year old teacher at Westerville. State law says that sexual conduct with a student, regardless of the student’s age, is considered sexual battery, and could lead to jail time. Truett voluntarily surrendered his teaching license to the state board of education.

I personally have no great issue with his affair with an 18 year old. That age is considered an adult for most laws, except drinking. I don’t see a victim in this crime. However, I do understand the people who want sexual relationships between teachers and students, no matter what the age, to be forbidden and criminalized. The power relationships between the two always leads to questions about any pressure the teacher is using on the student.

No answers or apology

When I first read about Truett’s filing to run for the school board, I expected a letter to the community in which he explained the circumstances surrounding his resignation. He left with a lot of questions unanswered, except for a statement released by his attorney. It is common for people who are running for office with a questionable background to have a meeting with the press in which they explain the bad things they did and to apologize, then to ask the community for understanding and redemption.

What we are missing from Jesse Truett is that apology to the community.

Without it, we are left wondering. Does Mr. Truett understand why romantic relationships between teachers and students are banned? Or does he think he was a special case that was not wrong?

Judging from the lack of any comment Truett has given to the press or on his campaign website about the circumstances surrounding his leaving the school, the only conclusion we can make is that he doesn’t think an apology or explanation is needed.

Other questions

Mr Truett now works for OAPCS as Senior Director and Project Manager, promoting charter schools. His day job will be to help charter schools take student out of public schools. This prompts some questions.

Back when he was a principal at the high school, Mr. Truett was promoting online coursework. The August 11, 2009 board meeting notes recorded him asking the board to allow a pilot program in which student would take classes online.

Would Mr. Truett use his seat on the board to promote more online classes? Firing teachers and sitting students in front of a computer is a cost saving measure, will Truett be pushing the school to do more of this?

Truett’s lack of response to the community also suggest that he thinks it is OK to not answer questions. Will he be the kind of school board member who dumps questions from parents into the bit bucket?

The line is open

There is no law that says Mr. Truett has to answer questions. He can stonewall everyone as long as he wants. But I think he owes the community some answers. Doesn’t matter what forum he uses. A suggestion to Mr. Truett – if you posted some answers to questions on your own website, people will want to go there and read it.

Open for supporters too

I emailed a number of the community members who are listed on Truett’s website as supporters and asked them to answer questions about why they want him on the board. None of them have replied to my questions.

I’m making an open offer – if you are a Truett supporter, and can answer questions about why you want him on the board, I will post your answers here on my blog. No editing, the full answers will be posted. I will ask questions about Mr. Truett’s affair with the student, and what that implies for our teachers and students. If you don’t have an answer for that, it will be noted.

Still not answering

Truett has an article in the TVN in which he gives his pitch for the board position. When asked about the circumstances surrounding his leaving the school, he said this:

“I feel like I’ve been very transparent and open to the community about that situation,” Truett said. “It was a long and hard decision to resign as principal. My family and I have continued to live in Grandview, because we love the community and it’s where my wife and I want to raise our children.”

No, you have not been transparent, Mr. Truett. This is the first time you have spoken about it without going through your attorney. You told us NOTHING except that you think you don’t have to answer questions.

Why did you leave when you did, were you being threatened with exposure? What was your relationship with the 18 year old student? Did you make a deal to avoid jail by surrendering your license? What kind of example will you be for the students and teachers of Grandview Heights?

Answer those questions, Mr Truett.

Why did Truett leave the school?

I talked to a Truett supporter at the candidate night at the school, and the explanation for their support was “His issues with leaving the school is water under the bridge”. When I pressed him for more detail, I got a reply that showed this person had gone beyond forgiveness to making up excuses for Truett that couldn’t be true.

I was asked, “What if Truett didn’t have the affair with the student until after she had graduated from the school?’

We don’t know, because Truett is not talking, but I have a real good reason to think he broke the law. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have any reason to quit and turn in his license. Because he would not be breaking any law after she graduated.

Let’s go back to the statement his attorney gave the dispatch reporter in 2011.

 “At the beginning of my teaching career, I became personally involved with an 18-year-old student. We continued to date publicly for nearly three years after her graduation. The knowledge that this relationship began at an inappropriate time has weighed upon me heavily in recent years and was beginning to create personal and health issues. “After much reflection and with my family’s support, I decided it was best to admit my mistake and start with a clean slate,” he wrote.

At first when Truett left the school he gave the standard “family issues” story, but later changed it to the above. His supporters want to believe his story. Let’s think about that.

In the middle of the school year (he left in March) he suddenly became overcome by years of guilt and had to submit a resignation from the school? That’s not very professional. In fact it is career suicide. I just don’t believe his story.

Maybe what happened was something like this. Somebody who was very close to Truett became very mad at him. So mad, that they told him they were going to go to the police and present evidence that showed Truett broke the law.

Truett contacted a lawyer, and was told that he would lose in court if he fought charges of sexual battery. The word of a single person who had reason to be mad at Truett doesn’t mean much, but if there were a number of people who knew about his sexual relationship with a student, and they were called into court and asked to testify under oath, they would not cover it up to protect him. Telling lies in court under oath is a very serious thing.

The lawyer said, “the best we can do is to get ahead of the problem. Submit your resignation from the school right now. Give up your teacher’s license voluntarily. That will prevent you from being charged by the prosecutor and avoid going to jail”.

Could that be what happened? I don’t know, but it makes more sense to me. Mr. Truett is not talking, and I would guess on the advice of his lawyer he will never be talking.

Is Jesse Truett the kind of tortured person who commits career suicide after years of guilt? That guilt has not stopped him from remaining in the education field. I don’t see anything self-effacing about his decision to run for the school board. In fact, that choice is a big fat finger in the face of the people who wanted to see him kicked out of education.

(Update)

I occasionally get an email from people who say they were at Westerville during Truett’s time at that school, and they say that it was common knowledge that Truett was in a relationship with a student. Some of them have more to say. I can’t allow hearsay like that to be posted in the comment section, but if you have a link to a public record that shows proof there was some sort of charges filed, I can use those records to update this story.

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