Key Coverage

Benefit of the Doubt
How Portland Public Schools Helped An Educator Evade Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Something broke inside 17-year-old Rose Soto when Marshall High teacher Mitch Whitehurst called attention to her pants.

“You know why they’re so great?” Whitehurst said as he walked behind her up an empty stairway, according to an account she would tell police and school officials. “It’s because of the zipper in the back. You just unzip them and boom we’re on it.”

The 2001 remark capped a year of unrelenting sexual advances from the Portland educator who’d tapped her to be his student aide, she told police.

When Soto mustered the courage to report him, it was the first time, records indicate, that Oregon’s largest school district received a detailed first-person complaint that the charming educator and coach might pose a threat to students.