SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- A substitute teacher has been barred from teaching in the Springfield School District after he made jokes about a principal who took his own life after being accused of sexually abusing a student.
Former Academy of Arts and Academics Principal Mike Fisher hanged himself in February while being investigated for sexual misconduct allegations.
Ten months later, now-former substitute teacher Josh Carlton has been barred from teaching in the district after performing a stand-up routine to students at A3 in an advanced acting class.
Carlton said he only told the jokes because students were stuck during an activity in class and wanted to hear about the routine he had recently written.
“I had told them that this summer I had wrote this kind-of stand-up set – stand-up-ish," Carlton said. "Some jokes and some that weren’t really jokes at all.”
He said the material was his way of processing what he could have or should have done regarding the allegations against Fisher.
“I wish I would’ve known. I wish I could’ve said, 'Hey, don’t do that,'" Carlton said. "That was sort of the context of the joke. There were others that expressed ways I wish I would’ve stood up and ways I wish I would’ve helped make the culture a place that women felt heard and safer.”
Carlton said he did give trigger warnings to his students about the jokes, telling them they involved someone they knew and an issue they had been affected by.
But telling those jokes, and a student reporting what he said, has left him without a job.
Carlton said he understands why the district made that decision, but he said he didn’t know about it until he saw it in the news.
“It was published, and then I got to read it, so yeah, that’s when I found out that I wasn’t subbing in the district anymore,” Carlton said.
He said he does regret saying what he said, especially in front of students that may have still been hurting.
But in the end, he hopes students get the help they need to heal from those wounds, including the ones he re-opened.
“I really hope that from this, they realize there are still students there who want to process and who might need more resources that they haven’t had this year,” Carlton said.
KEZI also spoke to students who said they aren't entirely sure how they feel about the situation.
"The initial majority reaction is that we're conflicted," said A3 student Zach Thompson.
Thompson is a senior who wanted to speak on behalf of his teachers and fellow students.
He spoke highly of Carlton, talking about him filling a vacant teaching role for an extended period at the beginning of the year, when he had planned on leaving the school district.
"Josh stayed away from his career that he always wanted to do in our time of need," Thompson said.
However, Thompson said some students and teachers are upset over what he said.
"A3 has an open-ended sense of humor, and we kind of understand why because of our unique student-teacher relationship, and we understand his actions, but we wish he was more professional with what he did," Thompson said.
Thompson said students and teachers are glad a student came forward after Carlton told the jokes, but they wish it had been handled internally first for the sake of those who are still hurting.
"We're happy that the student voiced their concerns, but we're upset at the media coverage because it slows the healing process," he said.
To help with that healing process, the Springfield School District had counselors at the Academy of Arts and Academics on Tuesday.