Passing Notes

After a Cashion schoolteacher wrote a mash note to a 12-year-old student, the district responded by reassigning him. But activists say that's not enough.

Officials with the Littleton School District told Guadalupe Elizondo that they'd take care of things when a teacher admitted to writing a suggestive note to her 12-year-old daughter, Melissa, last year.

But in Elizondo's eyes, the person they have taken the most care of is John Hansen, 38, who has been accused of writing notes to Melissa and one other adolescent Latina female student at Cashion's Underdown Junior High. Since charges against the teacher first arose 10 months ago, the district has transferred Hansen to another school and has made his classroom off-limits to female students. But activists say that's not enough, and on Monday, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) will petition the state Board of Education to revoke Hansen's teacher certification.

Hansen was investigated for sexual exploitation of a minor by the Avondale Police Department last May, after police received reports that the teacher had relayed inappropriate messages and comments to Melissa and another girl over a two-week period.

Computer teacher John Hansen told police he wrote this note to a 12-year-old student last May. In response, the Littleton School District transferred him to another school and assigned him to boys-only classes.
original text with photo illustration by Hector Ac
Computer teacher John Hansen told police he wrote this note to a 12-year-old student last May. In response, the Littleton School District transferred him to another school and assigned him to boys-only classes.

It began when the rest of Melissa's class went to "Camp Surf," a school-sponsored trip to San Diego, her mother says. The sixth-grader wasn't allowed to go and stayed behind with a handful of other middle school students supervised by Hansen, a popular sixth-grade math and computer teacher.

In her interview with police, Melissa said that Hansen passed her notes that made her uncomfortable, telling her at one point, "I know how to mack." He blew kisses at her, she says, and wrote her poems on the computer, such as, "I wish I may, I wish I might, I'd like to meet you in my truck tonight." She says she answered back, "You're crazy," and he responded, "That's a good thing."

Hansen admitted to police that he wrote a note pleading with Melissa to stop breaking his heart and said he may have seen the note about "macking," written something on it, and passed it along. Police reports also state that a teacher's aide recalled having seen Hansen pass Melissa the supposed "macking" note and that Melissa had told the aide about other computer messages. No records of a second note or any electronic messages were recovered during the search, however, and no charges were filed against Hansen. Instead, the investigating detective stated in her report that Hansen suffered from "a lack of personal boundaries" and she "advised him not to repeat this behavior." Hansen has not returned repeated phone calls from New Times.

School officials say discipline was imposed on the teacher after the investigation, but declined to specify what kind, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters. Elizondo also says she was promised that her daughter would have no further contact with Hansen. But five months later, when Melissa told her mother that she was still getting looks and comments from Hansen while receiving instruction in a neighboring classroom, Elizondo decided to contact LULAC.

Representatives of LULAC accompanied Elizondo to two meetings with school officials in November, where they demanded a new guarantee that Melissa would not have contact with Hansen. "You say you couldn't fire him, but, damn, you can keep him away from my child!" Elizondo exclaimed in an emotional exchange on November 1. District officials reminded the group that Hansen had not been charged with -- let alone convicted of -- any crime, and Superintendent Patricia Williams vowed to balance the rights of the employee with Elizondo's concerns.

Following that first meeting, Hansen was transferred from Underdown Junior High to Littleton Elementary. Instead of teaching math and computers to sixth-graders, Hansen was reassigned to "alternative education," a discipline class similar to detention. And, LULAC says, Superintendent Williams assured them and Elizondo that Hansen's class would be restricted to boys only. After Hansen's transfer and restriction had taken place, in a second meeting on November 14, Williams agreed that Hansen's conduct was "unprofessional," but said, "we cannot take his certification away from him," adding that she intended not to renew Hansen's teaching contract next year.

Matters finally came to a head in late November, when LULAC received word that another girl had been mistakenly sent to Hansen's classroom for a brief period. There are no reports of the girl receiving any notes or comments from the teacher. But LULAC chapter president Silverio Garcia fired off an angry letter demanding Hansen's certification be revoked, saying the district had promised "that [Hansen] would have no interactions with, nor were any female students to step foot in, Mr. Hansen's classroom."

"We have taken steps in the best interests of the Littleton Elementary School District to attempt to assure that any issues that were of concern to LULAC in the past will not be repeated," Superintendent Williams responded, in a letter dated November 30. "The fact that a female student was placed in an alternative setting by accident is not a breach of commitment, but is something we do not anticipate will reoccur. . . . We are working diligently with Mr. Hansen to resolve his employment issues in an amicable matter and consistent with legal, contractual and constitutional requirements."

LULAC and the mothers of both girls who allegedly received notes from Hansen last May have filed an official complaint with the district. But for his part, Silverio Garcia will continue with plans to take the matter to the state level. "I understand contractual agreements, I understand the headaches, but we want him removed altogether," Garcia says. "And whoever heard of a teacher who can't teach to little girls?"

 
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