Former Boardman teacher accused of inappropriate behavior toward students with special needs

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Among the accusations, the Ohio Board of Education said Corey Yoakam "made offensive, racial and sexually charged comments to staff and student helpers in his class"

COLUMBUS (WYTV) – After an investigation into a local teacher’s behavior, the state board of education is recommending he no longer be involved with students.

Corey Yoakam, who is currently president of the South Range School Board, is accused of inappropriate behavior as a teacher in the multiple disability unit at Boardman Center Middle School during the 2015-16 school year.

Yoakam, who was 26 years old at the time, taught students in fourth through eighth grades who were “severely handicapped,” according to a fellow teacher.

Among the accusations, the Ohio Board of Education said Yoakam “made offensive, racial and sexually charged comments to staff and student helpers in his class.”

READ: Ohio Board of Education’s resolution on Corey Yoakam

We talked to Yoakam Monday evening but he did not want to appear on camera. He gave us two sets of documents, saying they could speak for themselves:

READ: Yoakam argues he should be able to continue working with students

READ: Yoakam’s witnesses and reasonings for his classroom techniques

Yoakam is accused of calling one student helper of Pakistani descent “Slumdog Millionaire.” The state board said Yoakam admitted to this but said he was wrong to call the student that. He said he was only trying to relate to them in a positive way.

They claim he called another student “Chong,” asking the student if they ate fried rice that day. Yoakam didn’t remember saying that, according to documents obtained by WYTV.

READ: Documents detailing complaints against Yoakam

He called another student helper “the Hunchback of Notre Dame” and referred to the student as “the mongoloid looking one,” according to the state board’s resolution. Yoakam didn’t remember saying those things.

He told yet another student helper she was going to be a pole dancer, the state board claims. He told the board he did not say that.

Yoakam argued he tried to use humor to motivate his students. Until the allegations came up, he thought the comments were positive.

He said when he was told it could be interpreted negatively, he stopped doing it.

“When the appropriate context was added, Yoakam’s comments were in some cases entirely appropriate and, at worst, inappropriate. They were not malicious or intended to be racial, sexual or offensive.”
– Taken from documents detailing Yoakam’s objections

READ: Yoakam’s objections to accusations

Yoakam asked another teacher “to tell a female student not to wear a particular shirt because it was distracting as the shirt had a cat on it and the cat’s eyes were positioned on the student’s chest,” according to the state board.

Yoakam said the shirt read, “Look me in my eyes” and he thought it was inappropriate.

He is also accused of making students run and stand for long periods of time, as well as run up and down stairs and jump on a trampoline as punishment. A fellow teacher said Yoakam would make one student do this until the student got sick.

Yoakam argued it was for exercise and the students wanted to do those activities.

“Since this is a technique to alleviate severe behaviors and improve student efforts, it must be expected that there will be days that students don’t enjoy exercising. That doesn’t make the use of the technique inappropriate.”
– Taken from documents detailing Yoakam’s objections

The state board says Yoakam “squeezed the neck and shoulder area of a student, causing the student to fall to the ground.” The students described that move as a “Vulcan Death Grip,” according to the resolution.

Yoakam said he did “give deep pressure” to the student but he didn’t remember the student falling down, according to the state board’s investigation. He said it’s an approved technique and he used it as a therapeutic way to help calm the student down.

Yoakam also poured water on a student who fell asleep in his class, the state board says.

He claimed he only sprinkled water on the student because a doctor recommended it was a gentle way to wake them up.

“Dr. Briley suggested to Yoakam that instead of touching a student who had a tendency to lash out and strike others, the soft gentle water could be used to arouse the student. It was never used as punishment or discipline. There was nothing malicious behind Yoakam’s actions.”
– Taken from documents detailing Yoakam’s objections

The board said Yoakam acted in a way that’s “unbecoming” for a teacher in May 2016 when he “sent a text message to a coworker in an attempt to improperly influence the coworker’s interview with Children Services.”

Children Services was conducting an investigation of the allegations against Yoakam at the time.

In documents Yoakam gave to WYTV, he admitted to sending a text that read, “When csb calls tomorrow [don’t] talk to [sic] much. Only answer questions.”

He said it wasn’t to influence the coworker but he sent it because “the more people talk, the more confused they get and things can get misinterpreted,” according to the documents.

Yoakam said in the end, Children Services found the allegations to be unsubstantiated.

A fellow teacher told the assistant principal Yoakam made “inappropriate, suggestive comments” about her to his students and showed the teacher a picture of a bull’s genitalia, the state board says.

Another teacher described Yoakam as “young, immature, had an issue with filtering his comments at times and used some wild jokes at times to try to diffuse a situation,” according to the state board.

However, the state says one teacher testified that she would give Yoakam a recommendation because she believes “in his heart of hearts, he is an excellent teacher and wants the best for his students.”

Yoakam’s attorney said this has been a learning process for him:

“Yoakam has shown he has a lot to offer to students with multiple disabilities, other teachers and the community in general. If he is given the opportunity to resume serving as a teacher with students having multiple disabilities and is provided the opportunity to serve as an administrator, he will use what he has learned along the way and will focus his efforts on doing something he loves and is dedicated to — educating students.”

Yoakam resigned from Boardman Schools in 2017.

The Ohio Board of Education had a hearing in June of this year to determine if Yoakam was approved for the five-year professional intervention specialist teaching license and five-year professional principal license he applied for. The board did not approve those applications.

The board also is recommending Yoakam’s four-year pupil activity license be taken away.

If the state board’s resolution is approved, Yoakam would not be allowed to reapply for six months. If he does want to reapply, he has to complete ethics training, sexual harassment training and Crisis Prevention Intervention training.

Sharon Schools Superintendent Michael Calla said Yoakam has been working for the district since last summer in a temporary, grant-funded, administrative position. Calla said Yoakam has no interaction with students in Sharon and does not work inside the schools.

Yoakam coordinates threat assessment and/or “trauma-informed” training programs for administrators and teachers. Calla said the position does not require a teaching certification and it’s not a teaching position.

Calla called this news “a personal matter” and didn’t have any other comments.

Yoakam has also worked at Summit Academy and the Columbiana County Department of Developmental Disabilities at the Robert Bycroft School.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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