Wisconsin governor: Rival failed to act on teacher with porn

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker's first attack ad of the Wisconsin gubernatorial race released Wednesday refers to a sex act while accusing Democratic candidate Tony Evers of not revoking the license of a teacher who viewed pornographic images on a school computer.

Walker and his Republican allies have said for more than a year that Evers, the state superintendent, didn't do enough to remove Middleton middle school teacher Andrew Harris from the classroom. Evers has consistently said he didn't then have the legal authority to revoke the teacher's license. He later worked with the Legislature to pass a bill, which Walker signed, expanding the circumstances that warrant revocation.

Walkers' allies have run similar ads, but this spot goes into the most detail about the investigation and its findings.

The ad quotes from a Middleton-Cross Plains School District report from 2010 that found Harris had suggested to one student that she "brush up on her sex skills because that's all she'll be good at later in life." Wording from the report referring to oral sex is shown on the screen.

The ad also shows stock footage of young women talking, but not their faces, while the narrator says the teacher "commented on the chest sizes of middle school girls."

Evers has repeatedly defended his actions in the Harris case and denounced the attacks from Walker and Republicans as a distortion of the truth and a distraction from the issues voters care about.

The school investigation into Harris began in 2009 when the district received a complaint from a female teacher about emails containing nudity, crude jokes and other inappropriate material that Harris was viewing and sending to other school employees.

Harris was fired in 2010, but an arbitrator determined he should have been suspended so that his punishment would be on par with those given to other teachers who looked at explicit materials or emails while at work.

A circuit court judge and state appeals court upheld the arbitrator's ruling and Harris returned to work in 2014 — which the ad notes with a closing line: "The teacher is still in the classroom with young girls."

School boards have the authority to fire teachers. The decision to revoke a teacher's license rests with the state education department that Evers runs. Evers successfully lobbied the Legislature to change the law in 2011 to allow for license revocation in cases where teachers view pornography in the classroom, even if students were not exposed to it.

The law in place at the time of the Harris case required students to be endangered by the teacher's "immoral conduct" in order to revoke the teaching license. Evers has cited that as the reason why he couldn't revoke Harris's license — because no students viewed the material in question.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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