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Panel affirms firing of Calif. teacher over porn

Updated at: 04/18/2013 5:35 PM
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(AP) STOCKTON, Calif. - State officials have affirmed a Northern California school district’s decision to fire a 37-year-old high school teacher accused of using a school-issued laptop to help set up pornographic websites.

A three-member panel from the state Office of Administrative Hearings said it found that numerous files on the Lincoln Unified School District laptop once used by Heidi Kaeslin were pornographic, lewd, vulgar or repugnant. It also said her conduct was immoral.

The school board on Wednesday adopted the panel’s March 29 ruling, The Record of Stockton reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/YxFzHV).

Kaeslin was a special education teacher and former girls’ soccer coach at Lincoln High School in Stockton when she was fired last year. The district accused Kaeslin of keeping thousands of pornographic and erotic images on her school-issued laptop, then lying about her activities when administrators questioned her.

The district said it was subject to embarrassment due to the now-defunct websites and other online references to Kaeslin’s involvement with them, which officials say lasted from late 2010 until at least April 2011.

Kaeslin has said her involvement in the websites with former Stockton police officer Richard Fields, who was assigned to the high school as a resource officer, lasted only a few days.

Kaeslin told the newspaper last month that she is the victim of a vendetta by her estranged husband, who was angered by her extramarital affair with Fields.

Kaeslin said she and her husband are embroiled in divorce proceedings and share custody of their two young children. She said she used working on the websites as a pretext for spending time with Fields.

"From Day One, Rich wanted my help, and we joked about how we’re business partners because that was the way that we could have our affair," Kaeslin said.

Kaeslin said she admits using the district laptop to access files containing pornographic material. But she add added she purposely did not save the files to the computer’s hard drive and never realized they would nonetheless remain on the device.

Kaeslin said if she had been assisting Fields in the "hot-air balloon business," she "wouldn’t be in the same spot." Fields has said the allegations against Kaeslin were overblown.

"I did make a bad decision," Kaeslin said. "When I said that I stopped, I felt like I corrected that part of my bad decision-making process."

Kaeslin said her mistakes included the affair. She added: "Yeah, I made some bad choices. Do I feel like I should be fired over it? No."

The district said Kaeslin has until April 26 to ask the state panel to reconsider its ruling, and until May 27 to appeal the decision in court.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)