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Actor agrees to leave production.

Byline: ANNE WILLIAMS The Register-Guard

Sponsors of a theatrical production and panel discussion dealing with teen depression and suicide agreed to replace one of the lead actors after learning Thursday that he was the subject of sexual misconduct allegations several years ago.

Gerald Lee Walters, who was to play the role of the father of a suicidal teen, was a health and drama teacher at Madison Middle School in Eugene and investigated by the state Teacher Standards and Practices Commission after a complaint filed in 1999 by the Eugene School District.

In September 2000, the commission concluded an investigation into the complaint and found sufficient cause to suspend or revoke his teaching license or otherwise impose discipline.

While denying any wrongdoing, Walters waived his right to a hearing and voluntarily surrendered the license. He had been on administrative leave and resigned from the school district before the commission issued its findings.

Walters willingly backed out of the production of "Foul Shot," saying he did not want to detract from its important theme, said Elizabeth Pownall, a member of the Consortium for Depression Resources, which commissioned the play.

The consortium is made up of local professionals and community members concerned about the gap between the medical and mental health communities in treating depression.

Performances are scheduled tonight and Sunday; tonight's show will be followed by a panel discussion featuring local mental health specialists, physicians, educators and youth advocates.

Neither members of the consortium nor panelists knew of Walters' involvement in the play until they saw a photograph of rehearsals accompanying a story in Thursday's Register-Guard.

Pownall said she and the group's president and vice president thought it was important to replace Walters in the cast, as did the theater operators.

The Eugene School District's complaint against Walters stemmed from two separate allegations.

Early in 1998, Walters was charged with failing to report child abuse after his 21-year-old roommate had sex with a 15-year-old boy at their apartment in Springfield. As a teacher, Walters was required to report suspected child abuse. Walters' roommate pleaded guilty to contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor, but the charge against Walters was dismissed. His attorney argued that Walters did not witness the activity and did not know the boy's age.

The commission, however, found that Walters knew about the sexual contact and failed to report it, according to its final report.

In the second case, Eugene police investigated a claim that Walters had fondled a 14-year-old boy in 1998. Walters denied the allegation and never was charged. But the commission's investigation concluded that Walters did have sexual contact with the boy, according to its report.

In both cases, the commission found Walters in gross neglect of duty. Walters, 50, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Theater: The former teacher had surrendered his license after a state panel's probe of sex charges.; General News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 28, 2002
Words:462
Previous Article:City/Region Digest.
Next Article:Obituaries.



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