A former Wichita teacher who was imprisoned for sex crimes involving a 15-year-old female student is scheduled to speak at a national conference on professional practices for educators.
Kurt Brundage, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to two felony counts of indecent liberties with a child, also had been scheduled to address prospective teachers at Friends University in August. That event was canceled Thursday after The Eagle asked university officials about it.
Brundage, who was released from prison in December 2014, says he takes responsibility for his crime and wants to caution teachers and administrators from making the same mistakes.
“If this is what I’m going to be known for now … then I want to use that opportunity to fight the problem that I’ve contributed to,” he said.
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In October, Brundage is scheduled to appear at the annual Professional Practices Institute for the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification in Phoenix. The group represents professional standards boards in all 50 states.
The session, titled “Through the Eyes of an Offender,” will be led by Scott Gordon, general counsel for the Kansas State Board of Education.
Officials said the conference is attended primarily by attorneys, investigators, school officials and others charged with addressing teacher misconduct.
“One of the biggest concerns that we’ve had in the past several years is: What do we do about inappropriate relationships between faculty and students?” Gordon said.
“I think there’s a difference between hearing statistics and hearing from someone that actually has been convicted of sexual-related offenses.”
I think there’s a difference between hearing statistics and hearing from someone that actually has been convicted of sexual-related offenses.
Scott Gordon, general counsel for the Kansas State Board of Education
Brundage served 25 months of a 32-month sentence for sex crimes involving a student in January 2010. He was employed as an English teacher at Wichita East High School when the crimes occurred.
A registered sex offender, Brundage lives with his wife and daughter in west Wichita.
He was invited to speak at an orientation for student teachers and their mentors in the education department at Friends University in August. Officials canceled the event after The Eagle saw a listing about it on Brundage’s website and inquired about it.
“The topic was really to address ethical professional behaviors with student teachers and the importance of not making the same mistakes that he did,” said Deb Stockman, associate vice president for marketing and communications at Friends.
Because of the recent local news regarding a sexual assault suspect being identified and also the call from the newspaper, we have … canceled that event until further notice.
Deb Stockman, associate vice president for marketing and communications at Friends University
“Because of the recent local news regarding a sexual assault suspect being identified and also the call from the newspaper, we have … canceled that event until further notice,” Stockman said.
“Until we can talk about it again at a little higher level just to make sure it is the right decision for our students and for our university.”
Brundage, 37, works from home as a writer and website developer. In a book scheduled for release next year, “After 3 P.M.,” Brundage claims schools don’t do enough to address sexual misconduct and other inappropriate or illegal behavior between teachers and students.
Brundage taught English at East High from 2006 to 2011, and in the school’s pre-International Baccalaureate program for ninth-graders. He was also the assistant cross country coach for boys and girls in 2004 and 2005.
He said he wants to warn schools against practices that he says blur social and professional lines, including teachers giving students their cellphone numbers or friending them on social media.
He said he doesn’t plan to profit from the book – he said he paid $5,000 to New York-based Morgan James Publishing to finance its initial printing – and is not accepting payment for speaking engagements.
“My choices were the worst possible choices,” Brundage said.
“I can’t fix what I did. But if I can say something or write something, and as a result of that just one teacher doesn’t make the choice that I did, then all of this will have been worth it.”
Some states recently have cracked down on teachers who have sex and other inappropriate relationships with students.
In Texas this year, lawmakers approved a measure that could make school superintendents and principals who fail to report such conduct subject to criminal charges.
Texas Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Republican state lawmaker from Houston, told the Dallas Morning News that he introduced the bill in response to what he called a “statewide plague” of improper student-teacher relationships.
In the Wichita area, school leaders say they have procedures and safeguards in place to deal with teachers accused of sexual misconduct and other inappropriate or illegal behavior. But cases such as Brundage’s and others serve to remind them that vigilance is key.
In 2013, the Wichita district approved new social media guidelines that highlight general rules to follow. According to the guidelines, employees “are strongly advised to avoid friending students or the parents of students on personal social media networks” such as Facebook.
“We have more than 4,000 teachers and more than 2,600 support staff in the Wichita Public Schools who clearly understand appropriate behavior, receive annual training, and do the right thing to serve our students every day,” said Wendy Johnson, spokeswoman for the Wichita district.
“Any reported allegations of inappropriate behavior involving staff are investigated swiftly and thoroughly.”
Prepped for backlash
Brundage said he expects some backlash against his book project and speaking engagements.
“When you have a disgraced teacher who is kicked out of the profession, has gone to prison and is released as a sex offender, usually they want to be out of the light, in the shadows,” he said.
I’m the bad guy. I’m the guy who’s walking out on stage, and I’m probably going to have insults and vegetables hurled at me, but I’m willing to do that.
Kurt Brundage, former teacher imprisoned for sex crimes
“I know I don’t have the magic solution, but I think I can help.”
He said he was affected by “Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead,” a book by Frank Meeink about his descent into America’s Nazi underground. Meeink later abandoned the white supremacy movement and began speaking on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League.
“If this is who I’m going to be, if my name is going to be on a website, if my name is going to be synonymous with anything,” Brundage said, “I would like it to be synonymous with a solution, not just the problem.”