By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — While Gov. Tony Evers’ campaign goes about casting stones, don’t forget the former lord of Wisconsin public education stood by while his agency approved licenses for teachers accused of sexual misconduct involving students.
Evers’ team recently rolled out an ad attacking his opponent, Republican businessman Tim Michels, for two lawsuits filed against his family-owned construction company by female employees alleging sexual harassment and assault on job sites.
What you won’t find in the attack ad is that Brownsville, Wis.-based Michels Corp. is one of the largest contractors in North America, with more than $3 billion in revenue and more than 8,000 employees. Find a 63-year-old large employer that has not faced some kind of workplace lawsuit.
Evers certainly experienced his share of employee issues in his 10-year tenure as superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction. As he was running for governor in 2018, he and his liberal friends complained when Republicans cast a spotlight on sexual misconduct on DPI’s watch.
Take the case of former Beloit Turner School teacher Dayleen Yoerger. She was accused of sending sexually provocative Snapchat notes to a student as young as 15 or 16. Evers’ DPI decided not to revoke her state teacher’s license even though a DPI attorney told the student’s parents in October 2015 she believed there was a strong case for yanking Yoerger’s license.
Yoerger vehemently denied the accusations, after she deleted her Snapchat account and acknowledged that she did send the student messages. “But Yoerger proved incredibly elusive during an interview with school district officials in mid-January 2015, refusing to answer questions about her messages to the boy or saying she did not recall them. She did acknowledge sending pictures of her holding alcoholic beverages, however,” according to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The newspaper further reported:
Records show Yoerger resigned her job as a family and consumer sciences teacher in January 2015 while under investigation for sending the student pictures of her posing in a bra or in a bathtub, holding alcoholic beverages or saying she would like to have sex with the boy.
In one, she supposedly told him if he could sneak away from a party, she would make it “worth his while.” The student and three of his friends went to authorities because he said he was “creeped out” by Yoerger’s behavior.
“She Snapchats me sexual things. She sends me close to nudes, but not fully showing anything,” the male student said in a written statement. “When she is sexting me, she says how she wants to have sex in her storage closet or meet somewhere.”
In another case, Evers’ DPI renewed the licence of Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution special education teacher Nadine Minglana, who was initially charged in 2011 with second-degree sexual assault for having sex with an inmate. DPI approved Minglana’s teaching license, which was active at the time of Evers’ 2018 campaign for governor. She had pleaded no contest to a Class I felony for misconduct in office.
And then there’s the case of Andrew Harris, a middle school science teacher in the Middleton Cross Plains school district who was found to have viewed sexually explicit images on his school computer. Evers’ DPI refused to revoke his license, too. A report by the school district recommending Harris’ dismissal found the teacher had engaged in behavior “that constituted harassment” for viewing and sharing the sexually explicit emails and for comments he allegedly made about the bodies of female co-workers and students. In one instance, according to the report, Harris allegedly said a seventh-grade girl needed to “brush up on her blow job skills because that’s all she’ll be good for later in life.”
Evers and DPI claimed their hands were tied, they had to re-issue the licenses because the “highly inappropriate” behavior did not fit the definition of “immoral conduct” under state law at the time.
But DPI had no problem opening an investigation to remove the license of a Milwaukee Public Schools counselor who spoke in opposition to “gender identity ideology” at a Madison rally in April. Apparently DPI considers the teacher’s First Amendment rights “immoral conduct.”
Conveniently, the Evers campaign ad quickly followed a hit piece on Michels by CBS 58 reporter Emily Fannon.
The complaints go back to the 1990s, but Evers’ attack ad focuses on two lawsuits from 2012 in which two women say they were sexually assaulted and harassed by supervisors at Michels Corp. As Channel 3000 notes, “it is important to note that the two suits were settled out of court — so a jury has not evaluated the veracity of the allegations, nor has anyone been found liable of wrongdoing.”
“Michels Corporation has always been committed to maintaining a working environment free of harassment, intimidation, and coercion at all of its locations. Any violation, of any type, simply put, is not tolerated,” the company said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the press has yet to ask Evers what he was doing in photos with a wanted pedophile in Madison this summer.
Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 5, 2022