At an Oakland Art School, a Teacher’s Arrest for Alleged Sexual Abuse Reopens a Painful History – KQED

Taylor, the subject of the most recent investigation, taught economics, U.S. government and Advanced Placement psychology. In an email sent to OSA families in August, Mike Oz, the school’s executive director, wrote that no current employee “had any knowledge of allegations or instances of sexual misconduct, grooming or boundary crossing by Mr. Taylor prior to January 3rd, 2022.”

Taylor, 47, pleaded not guilty in December to committing a lewd act upon a child. His lawyer, Elizabeth Grossman, said the abuse allegations are a “total fabrication.” Recent OSA graduates said Taylor was popular on campus, and students had crushes on him, sharing memes of him online.

“The criminal case is a tragedy,” Grossman, a criminal defense attorney who specializes in disciplinary matters in schools and universities, according to her website, said by phone. “It’s an example of an excellent, dedicated teacher having his career ruined.”

In a statement in response to allegations of inappropriate behavior by former staff, including multiple allegations that have not been previously reported, Borg said current school leaders have “very limited insight” into incidents that occurred during the school’s infancy.

“[O]ur leadership team has aggressively worked to review archived records, discarded computer drives, spoken to witnesses and reviewed other sources to discern the truth,” he said. “Where we have conducted investigations that yielded credible information, we have taken action and cooperated with law enforcement. Every accusation or complaint, formal or not, receives immediate attention and is fully investigated.”

‘What was normal and what was not’

The Oppenheimer report describes a pattern of grooming behavior by Taylor, and a campus where leadership created “a culture of loose boundaries” that “likely enabled Taylor’s relationships with his students.”

A student whose account was included in the report told KQED that the ways other faculty at the school behaved with students made her relationship with Taylor seem normal. She attended OSA from 2003 to 2005, and asked not to be named over concerns that former OSA staff could threaten her legally for speaking out.

two hands are seen holding a yearbook with a title 'Our new home'
‘Maureen’ holds a yearbook from her time at Oakland School for the Arts. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“It was very apparent to me and my friends that there were teachers at our school that could possibly like students,” she said. “But looking back at it as an adult, you don’t hug a student and massage their back, and all these red flags, and [make] it look like a safe space.”

She remembered talking to Taylor about her personal life for hours on the phone. When rumors spread on campus that she had a sexual relationship with Taylor, she said school staff joked about it.

“It was more humiliating to have my teachers laugh and poke fun instead of calling my parents first and seeing if there was something going on,” she said.

Ten former students told KQED that Jason Miller, a founding faculty member, also behaved inappropriately or crossed personal boundaries with students. None of the former students alleged sexual abuse by Miller, who worked at OSA until 2007.

An alum who graduated in 2008 told KQED she frequently went out to eat with Miller alone while she was a student, and they called each other frequently. She asked not to be named because she fears retaliation from Miller, who, according to his LinkedIn bio, has been employed as a deputy legislative counsel in California’s Office of Legislative Counsel since December.

a young person with long dark hair stands with her back facing the camera in an orange sweater, in front of a school
An alum who graduated from OSA in 2008 said she often went out to eat alone with former teacher Jason Miller, a founding faculty member, and they called each other frequently while she was a student. She’s one of several alums who told KQED that Miller behaved inappropriately or crossed personal boundaries with students. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“He would hug me a lot, kiss me on my forehead, call me ‘sweetie,’ tell me he loved me,” she said. “There was a lot of ‘I love you,’ and that’s also part of OSA culture. At the time, it was almost normal for teachers and students to say ‘I love you’ to one another.”

She said after Miller took another job, she would leave school during lunch to intern at the theater company his wife founded in Antioch. He often drove her home and held her hand during the rides, she said. She shared emails with KQED from 2007 and 2008 where Miller wrote, “I love you” and “I miss you.”

Original News Source