A former defendant in the McMartin Pre-School molestation case, Peggy Ann Buckey, has been denied a teaching credential by the state's licensing agency despite the dropping of all criminal charges against her, The Times learned Monday.
The credentials committee of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing found "probable cause" to deny Buckey's request for reinstatement, based on molestation allegations by six former McMartin pupils and opposition by the Anaheim Union High School District.
Buckey, 30, was a tenured special education teacher in the Anaheim district at the time of her arrest in 1984. She was then suspended but not fired, and during the 18-month preliminary hearing her teaching credential expired and she did not renew it.
She had substituted occasionally at the Manhattan Beach nursery school run by her mother and grandmother, and taught there for five weeks in 1978. The children's allegations--submitted to the commission by the school district--involve acts that the six children say occurred between 1977 and 1983.
Burbank attorney John J. Wagner, who represents Buckey, said he will appeal the decision, which means that a full-scale hearing will be held before an administrative law judge later this year. The six children could be called as witnesses at the hearing.
"It's another witch hunt," said Wagner, arguing that the credentials committee did not investigate the allegations but relied on transcripts of the preliminary hearing testimony of two children and signed declarations by four others.
Wagner added that the school district submitted only the direct examination of the two children, but not the cross-examination.
"One of them (the children) was only 5 years old when she printed her name on a declaration that uses words she couldn't possibly understand," Wagner said.
When Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner dropped the charges against Buckey and four other former McMartin teachers last year, Wagner said, Buckey began thinking of returning to teaching and sent in her fee.
Buckey and her lawyer, as well as an attorney for the school district and two assistant superintendents, met with the seven-member credentials committee last month.
Asked why her application had been rejected when no criminal charges are pending against her, Walter Taylor, administrator of professional standards for the commission, cited the difference in the standard of proof required in criminal and administrative proceedings.
In criminal proceedings, that standard is beyond "a reasonable doubt" and "to a moral certainty." In proceedings to revoke or suspend a license, proof must be "clear and convincing to a reasonable certainty, and not a mere preponderance of the evidence," he said.
'Same Trumped-Up Stuff'
"There isn't a whole lot of difference," said Wagner, arguing that the state "is going to put her through" painful proceedings "on the same trumped-up stuff," when "there has been no finding of wrongdoing."
The attorney for the Anaheim district, Kyle Brown, was out of town Monday and could not be reached for comment. Attempts to reach Buckey on Monday were unsuccessful. She was said to be viewing videotapes of interviews with McMartin children and taking a change of clothing to her brother, Ray Buckey, who remains in custody on molestation charges.
Peggy Ann Buckey had been charged with eight counts of child molestation and conspiracy, and was ordered to stand trial after a grand jury indictment and an 18-month preliminary hearing.
However, the district attorney dropped charges against her, her grandmother, Virginia McMartin, and three other teachers. Trial of her mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, and Ray Buckey, who face 101 counts of child molestation and conspiracy, is scheduled to begin next month.