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Two 4J teachers on paid leave as school district investigates camping trip

Kerry Delf, a spokeswoman for the school district, said Ray Cole and Steven Connelly are on paid leave and said the investigation is not a criminal matter.

Posted: Sep. 20, 2018 6:38 PM
Updated: Sep. 20, 2018 6:42 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Two teachers with Eugene School District 4J are on paid leave as the district investigates what happened during an overnight camping trip back in June, and some students are defending them.

Kerry Delf, a spokeswoman for the school district, said Ray Cole and Steven Connelly are on paid leave and said the investigation is not a criminal matter.

Delf said the two teachers, along with a third, took 13 students on a trip to a campground in Lane County. The camping trip was part of an alternative high school program with the Early College and Career Option High School (ECCO).

At this time, it is unclear what spurred the investigation. Delf said the district does not comment on the details of ongoing personnel investigations.

“Student safety is a top priority, whether at school or on school-sponsored trips,” Delf said. “We hold a high standard for student behavior and supervision at all times.”

During a school district board meeting, current and former ECCO students told district leaders the two teachers should not be fired.

"I was a teen parent and I was homeless when I went to ECCO,” former student Conon Rain said to the school board. “They taught us life skills we probably would never have if we hadn't met them, and I know 100 percent that they care so much about their students."

In a strange twist, one of the teachers is now in trouble with the law. Eugene police report Connelly was arrested early Monday for criminal trespass. Officers said he was walking on the train tracks near 3rd Street in Eugene, and police warned him to get off the tracks, but he refused.

KEZI 9 News has reached out to the unions who represent teachers at 4J and the State Department of Education but at this time has not heard back.

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