Bellingham school teacher subject of police, district investigation

A Silver Beach elementary School teacher is the subject of a police investigation.
A Silver Beach elementary School teacher is the subject of a police investigation. The Bellingham Herald file

Bellingham Police have opened an investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct by a Silver Beach Elementary School teacher toward a student.

There will be a hearing this week regarding a protection order that’s been filed against the second-grade teacher, identified in Whatcom County District court papers as Kristine Tice.

A mother, on behalf of her special needs 9-year-old son, filed a petition for a temporary sexual assault protection order against Tice after the boy disclosed to his mother, a psychiatrist, school officials and police that there had been inappropriate conduct while he was a student in Tice’s classroom, according to court records.

In mid-September, the temporary order was denied and a hearing was set for the end of this month to determine the petition’s merit.

The Bellingham School District has already concluded its internal investigation of Tice and found no evidence to substantiate the allegations at this time, said Jacqueline Brawley, communications director for Bellingham Public Schools.

Brawley said the allegations were first made to the school on Jan. 25 and a district probe began immediately. The district hired an attorney to conduct a third party investigation which began in May and ended June 29, Brawley said.

The parent was notified of the findings on July 5. The petition was filed in court Sept. 13.

“We believe in the safety and protection of all students. It’s our number one priority,” Brawley said. “We do everything we can to make sure all accusations of mistreatment are investigated and taken very seriously.”

Brawley said the school district has closed its internal investigation and offered its findings to Bellingham Police, adding the school district is working closely with police.

No charges have been filed.

In the petition, the mother, who is also a substitute para educator with Bellingham Public Schools, said her son was “unable to feel safe, is terrified and having panic attacks,” and asked for the protection order to be in place during the police investigation.

The petition states the teacher’s actions included grooming behaviors, such as special treats, privileges, outings and inappropriate touching, according to court records.

Tice is also being investigated for sexual misconduct and allegedly giving alcohol to the boy’s 5-year-old sister, according to court records.

According to the petition, Tice also used her vehicle to intimidate the family after school and has continued to make harassing statements.

“His classroom and special needs classroom need to be safe places where he is able to relax, feel safe and learn without harassment,” the petition states.

The boy underwent a forensic interview and was determined to be credible, according to court records.

The petition also states school district officials have not honored the mother’s requests for space between the boy and Tice, which the mother has been requesting since February – the district told the mother officials needed a court order in order to hold Tice accountable.

Tice remains on Silver Beach’s teacher roster. She was not immediately available for comment.

Whatcom County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey said he’s aware of the case, but couldn’t comment further.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt