Catherine Smith | April 4, 2024

State Board of Education tackles teacher misconduct

Catherine Smith

The Oklahoma State Board of Education (OSBE) is working aggressively to address new reports of educator misconduct while also reaching into the past to ensure teachers who violate children lose their certifications through the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE). 

Since taking office in January of 2023, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters and the OSBE have taken action on the certifications of 32 teachers.

Sexual Abuse, Sexting Most Common Offenses

Most (17) of the OSBE’s recent suspensions/revocations involved sex crimes against students or children including direct sexual abuse (11), inappropriate communications (5), and the creation of child pornography (1), with most occurring prior to the current OSDE administration taking office. Nearly all direct sexual abuse convictions or allegations within this educator group also involved inappropriate digital communications during the grooming and abuse process. 

The Oklahoma Legislature is currently considering HB 3958, authored by state Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, which would require parent/guardian inclusion within digital and electronic communications between students and educators. The bill passed the House on March 6 by a vote of 85-10.

Of the 32 certification issues addressed by the current OSBE, 18 involved female educators and 14 involved male educators. According to 2022-23 data from the OSDE, women make up 75.88% of Oklahoma’s pre-K–12 educator workforce.

Among the women identified for certificate suspension or revocation, one-third faced charges related to drug possession (2) and intoxication, either while at school (3) or related to DUI (1). Another one-third (6) were convicted or accused of child sexual abuse, child exploitation, or sexting with a child, of which half targeted male victims and half female victims. National and global trends indicate females are increasing among child sex offenders.

Notable among the group is Christin Covel. In January 2022, she was arrested in Tulsa where she taught math at Edison Preparatory School (Tulsa Public Schools) and extradited to Kansas for sexually abusing a 13-year-old female student. The affidavit of probable cause within the case states the abuse began in 2018, the child disclosed to her therapist, and nearly 10,000 Snapchats between the victim and Covel were identified. Covel is serving five years and eight months for two counts of aggravated indecent solicitation of a child. In January 2024, the OSBE voted unanimously to refer Covel’s case to the hearing officer for revocation of her teaching certificate.

Other female educators were identified for suspension or revocation based upon other types of misconduct, including Summer Boismier, the former Norman Public Schools English teacher who went public with her classroom stash of books labeled “Books the state doesn’t want you to read” in protest of state law under HB 1775. Bypassing both the law and parents, Boismier also posted a QR code to the Brooklyn Public Library’s “Books Unbanned” project which gives children everywhere access to controversial books including those involving gender theory and containing pornographic content and imagery. Boismier resigned from Norman Public Schools and now works for the Brooklyn Public Library. On March 28, 2024, the OSBE voted to continue Boismer’s case until counsel is hired at the OSDE to pursue revocation of her teaching certificate.

Coaches Identified for Certification Suspension

Of the 32 actions against teaching certificates, at least 10 were also coaches, both male and female. Overwhelmingly, the educator misconduct among this group of teachers/coaches involved the sexual abuse of and/or sexualized communications with youth. Five of the eight male coaches identified were either convicted or accused of sexual misconduct with students, three having male victims and two having female victims.

A notable case among this group of male coaches involves 58-year-old Brent McGee of Wetumka Public Schools, who is accused of molesting boys within his charge for more than 30 years. On October 26, 2023, McGee victim Casey Yochum spoke before the OSBE and the board voted unanimously to suspend McGee’s certifications. Shortly thereafter, McGee opted to surrender his certifications to the OSDE. 

McGee’s wife, Donna, the longtime superintendent of Wetumka Public Schools, has announced her May 2024 retirement. 

Despite an audio recording of McGee discussing his sexual abuse of Yochum, and multiple other McGee victims coming forward to involved law enforcement agencies (Hughes County Sheriff, OSBI, FBI, and Choctaw Lighthorse Police), District 22 District Attorney Erik Johnson (R) has yet to file charges in the case. OCPA requested an update on the McGee case from Mr. Johnson, but as of publication, his office had not responded. 

Both of the female teachers/coaches with certifications identified for suspension or revocation pled guilty to sexual crimes against students, one for sexually abusing female students and the other for sending nude photos and videos to a male student-athlete.

Erin Nicole Fixico-Mitchell, a teacher and softball coach, was convicted of sexually abusing female students both at Ada High School in 2015 and Byng High School in 2021. In May 2023, following a joint investigation by Chickasaw Lighthorse Police and the FBI, Fixico-Mitchell pled guilty to three counts of sexual abuse of a minor within Indian Country. At the next meeting of the OSBE, the board voted unanimously to suspend her certifications, which were scheduled to expire the following week. On March 19, 2024, Fixico-Mitchell was sentenced in the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma to 69 months each for the three counts.

Two other coaches, 57-year-old Jeff Myers and 48-year-old Micah Nall, were named along with Kingfisher Public Schools as defendants in a civil suit related to the physical abuse and hazing of a student on the district’s football team. 

In November, the parties agreed to a settlement of $5 million to the family of the student involved. In addition, head coach Jeff Myers was criminally charged with felony child neglect and coach Micah Nall with felony child abuse and perjury. Following the break of the abuse scandal, Nall was employed by Western Heights High School as an English teacher and football “analyst,” then placed on administrative leave in November of 2023. On February 22, the OSBE referred both Myers and Nall to the hearing officer for revocation of their teacher certifications.

Except for Myers and Nall, all other male educators identified for suspension or revocation of their teaching credentials had either been convicted or accused of child sexual abuse or sexualized communication with students or children.

Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith (B.A. in journalism, University of Oklahoma) is a freelance journalist who previously spent a decade as the marketing and communications director for a national corporation based in Oklahoma City. More recently, she served in the Child Welfare Division of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and in the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

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