Two days after two former students sued Salem-Keizer Public Schools and former McNary choir teacher Joshua Rist for Rist’s alleged grooming of the plaintiffs, the district received a third complaint from a McNary graduate against Rist.
In a media briefing on Tuesday, Castañeda announced the new complaint and that the district was investigating it. She said the new incident happened in an overlapping timeframe with the two complaints that are part of the lawsuit. Those two were students at McNary from 2016-2019 and 2017-2020. Rist taught at McNary from 2016-2022.
The lawsuit against Rist and the district alleges knowledge of a previous victim at McNary, but it is unknown whether this new complaint is the same as the one implied.
Castañeda has taken a firm stance against Rist, removing him from his position at Kalapuya Elementary and calling for stronger rules surrounding such incidents.
“I do not believe Mr. Rist should be allowed to serve students in Salem-Keizer Public Schools or anywhere else,” Castañeda said. “I have already removed him from Kalapuya and to the degree that it is legally in my control I will not reinstate him in a student-facing role.”
She feels that the current 90-day window preventing sexual contact between instructors and recent graduates is not enough and said she is asking the Teachers Standards and Practices Commission to increase the time frame.
Four institutions investigated the initial complaints against Rist, and no organization charged Rist with a crime or handed down “significant sanctions.” Castañeda offered her belief in why that was the result of four thorough investigations.
“Our state has a legal loophole, and in that loophole our laws do not match our community values or ethical standards,” Castañeda said.
The district released a timeline of the complaints and investigations into Rist, which date back to 2018 when the first report of possible misconduct was received, and reported to Keizer Police. Around three months after the complaint, the school finished its investigation and the issue was addressed with Rist by then-McNary principal Erik Jespersen.
In May 2021, the two students reported Rist’s behavior to the district, and he was placed on administrative leave the next day. Five months later the investigations began to wrap up in October.
First, the Marion County District Attorney declined to file charges, then the Department of Human Service/Office of Training and Safety determined the allegations of child abuse were unfounded.
January of the next year, the TSPC dismissed the sexual conduct allegations and proceeded with professional misconduct charges.
As a result of those charges, Rist was suspended for 60 days and placed on three years probation.
His suspension ran through the summer, and he was placed at Kalapuya following his reinstatement.
In October 2022 the district received a tort claim notice from the two students.
The TSPC opened a new sexual conduct investigation into Rist on Feb. 9, 2023, later dismissing it on April 11.
On Sept. 27 the lawsuit was filed, and on Sept. 29 the new complaint was filed.
Rist was again placed on administrative leave on Oct. 2, the same day reports were filed with KPD, TSPC and Oregon Department of Human Services.
When asked why she and the district didn’t take stronger action against Rist, Castañeda explained the limitations to firing a staff member.
“There has to be irrefutable evidence that multiple investigating parties and especially the school district can point to that is a violation of the ethical standards by the teacher or, conversely, meets the standard of a criminal action related to a juvenile or criminal action as a finding related to overall Oregon statute,” Castañeda said.