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In announcing the ads, the party identified Tony Evers, Matt Flynn, Mahlon Mitchell and Kelda Roys as the leading candidates to win the right to challenge GOP Gov. Scott Walker in the general election on Nov. 6, 2018.
The ad attacking Evers, who is the state schools superintendent, claims Evers "didn't revoke the license of a teacher caught spreading pornography and commenting on the bodies of middle-school girls."
An earlier version of the GOP attack, which we fact checked in 2017, rated Mostly False on the Truth-O-Meter.
The revised attack does a little better, but still leaves out important context.
The radio ad alludes to the case of Andy Harris, a middle-school science teacher in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, west of Madison. As we reported in the earlier fact check, Harris was fired in 2010 for viewing images of nudity on his school computer and showing at least one of them to a female co-worker.
As the state GOP continued to hammer on the case in 2017, it was later reported that a fellow staff member had told the school district’s investigators Harris also had made crude remarks to staffers about the appearances and chest sizes of female students. However, Evers’ department said neither the department nor the arbitrator could determine whether Harris actually made the sexually crude comments.
Harris got his job back after an arbitrator ruled he had been improperly fired. The arbitrator concluded that Harris’ behavior did not endanger any students — a key finding, based on state law at the time — and the decision to give Harris back his job was upheld by two courts.
The real punch in the Republican Party’s attack, though, is aimed at Evers. So, where does he come in?
Evers did have the discretion on whether to go through license revocation proceedings, which Harris could have challenged.
But Evers decided against seeking revocation after concluding, as the arbitrator did, that the teacher’s behavior didn’t endanger kids, as defined by the law at that time.
In other words, in the view of Evers’ department, there was no legal basis to take away Harris’ license.
At the time, state law defined immoral conduct in such cases as "conduct or behavior that is contrary to commonly accepted moral or ethical standards and that endangers the health, safety, welfare, or education of any pupil."
After the Harris case, the law was changed so that immoral conduct includes "the intentional use of an educational agency’s equipment to download, view, solicit, seek, display, or distribute pornographic material."
That is, the part about endangering students was removed, a change that was backed by both Evers and Walker.
We’re on the 6 p.m. newscasts on WTMJ-TV on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The state Republican Party says Evers "didn't revoke the license of a teacher caught spreading pornography and commenting on the bodies of middle-school girls."
It’s true that Evers, as the state schools superintendent, opted not to revoke the teacher’s license.
But what’s left out is that Evers concluded that state law at the time didn’t allow for a revocation because the teacher’s behavior didn’t endanger children. The same conclusion had been reached by an arbitrator, who ruled the teacher had been fired improperly and gave the teacher back his job. And two courts upheld the arbitrator’s decision.
The importance of the endangering standard was underlined by the fact that the Legislature later made sure to take that clause out.
The attack on Evers is partially accurate, but leaves out important details — our definition of Half True.
YouTube, Wisconsin Republican Party Tony Evers radio ad, Aug. 1, 2018
Wisconsin Republican Party, news release, Aug. 1, 2018
Interview, Wisconsin Republican Party research director and lawyer Charles Nichols and spokesman Alec Zimmerman, Aug. 3, 2018
Email, Tony Evers campaign spokeswoman Maggie Gau, Aug. 2, 2018
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bice: GOP rips Tony Evers for not ousting porn-viewing teacher accused of sexually crude remarks," Nov. 2, 2017
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