Ottumwa Instructor Has Teaching License Suspended

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An Ottumwa teacher has had his teaching license suspended indefinitely following numerous complaints of inappropriate behavior.

Richard Wortmann had been employed at Ottumwa High School as a science teacher since August of 2000. According to documents in the case, Wortmann had several accusations of inappropriate behavior leveled against him. A complaint from August of 2016 states that as a chaperone on the school sponsored Great Western trip, a parent had raised concerns that Wortmann was in female students’ tents engaging in physical contact described as back rubs. Documents state that after this incident he was assigned a mentor to counsel him about appropriate personal space with female students.

A complaint from March of 2017 described three incidents regarding Wortmann and a female student. The first involved the teacher placing a piece of paper on the student’s leg and writing on it. The second involved Wortmann putting his arms around the student during a chemistry lab as she was having difficulty with a test tube. The third incident claimed Wortmann used the words “cute, adorable, and hot” to describe the student. Two other complaints were made, one in September of 2017 and another in April of 2019, both involving inappropriate physical contact with female students, including touching of arms and stapling of a students’ hair.

In response to the allegations, Wortmann was placed on administrative leave while a formal investigation was carried out. The investigation uncovered several students who supported the claims and stated that Wortmann’s actions had made them feel uncomfortable. On May 6, the investigator determined that the incident in April of 2019 was a “founded” claim of sexual harassment. On that same date, Wortmann resigned in lieu of termination. At a later hearing, Ottumwa Superintendent Nicole Kooiker testified that in the 4 years she has served in her current position at least 25 female students had approached her or other administrators regarding Wortmann’s behavior. She further testified that she believed he would continue to create an uncomfortable setting for female students at other school districts if allowed to keep his license.

Documents state that the Board notified Wortmann of the hearing regarding his license and received the return receipt, but he failed to appear for the hearing. That violation alone would have allowed the Board to render a default judgement against him. Furthermore, the Board found that the two counts of Unethical Practice against him, specifically Failure To Protect Health and Safety of Students and Unnecessary Embarrassment or Disparagement had been proven by a preponderance of the evidence (the legal standard in such cases).

As a result of the decision, Wortmann’s teaching license was indefinitely suspended with no possibility of reinstatement for at least 5 years. Prior to any possible reinstatement, he would be required to undergo a mental health evaluation including an assessment of his ability to establish and maintain appropriate boundaries as well as a psychosexual evaluation.

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