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Posted on Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 12:03 p.m.

Huron High School orchestra teacher's relationship with former student basis for possible tenure charges, document shows

By Kyle Feldscher

Huron High School orchestra teacher Chris Mark's relationship with a former student was nothing more than a passionate educator trying to reach a troubled student, his attorney argues.

But the district, in its investigation that could lead to tenure charges against Mark, accused him of engaging in an inappropriate relationship that including “grooming” and “abuse of trust," the attorney says in a six-page letter to the Ann Arbor school board obtained by

Nicholas Roumel, an employment attorney at NachtLaw, 101 N. Main St., wrote to school board members ahead of tonight’s meeting, where the investigation into Mark’s conduct is expected to be discussed. He said Mark, 45, is now dating the former student but did not engage in any inappropriate behavior while she attended Huron.

Roumel, who served on the Ann Arbor school board from 1994 to 2000, said this afternoon he never intended for the letter to become public, and it was meant to be a communication between his client and the school board. He declined further comment. was unable to reach Mark or the former student, who graduated five years ago.

Roumel said in the letter dated Dec. 14 that the tenure charges paint Mark in a “false light” and “seriously and egregiously misrepresents the nature of the relationship” between Mark and the former student while she attended Huron. Tenure charges are the first step in the process to terminate a teacher's employment.

“(The communications) were guided from Mr. Mark’s sense of responsibility to reach out to a student who was literally in danger of losing her life because of her unstable home situation,” Roumel said. is not using the name of the former student due to the allegations involving her home life in the statement.

District spokeswoman Liz Margolis said Tuesday that no decision had been reached on Mark’s status, and said she could not comment further due to the legal nature of the investigation.

Mark has been on leave since August, when the district began investigating his conduct. In the letter, Roumel said the mother of Mark’s girlfriend, who disapproved of the relationship, made the complaint.

Mark has received support from former and current students, as well as Huron High School parents. More than 100 supporters crowded a school board meeting last month in a show of support.

Roumel characterized Mark as a thoughtful teacher who was only looking out for a troubled student. According to Roumel, the relationship eventually advanced, but that didn't occur until after she graduated from Huron.

He said there were never any sexual advances made by Mark while she was a student.

"But for a single peck on the cheek, there was never any intimate contact while (she) was a student," the letter says.

He provided an e-mail from Mark to the student, which he said was misrepresented by district administrators as a "love letter."

A portion of that e-mail reads:

“I've said too much. I don't know what else to tell you. I LOVE YOU, (student's name). I always have--after I met you. My son, LOVES YOU! Jesus LOVES YOU. Why won't YOU love YOU? YOU are surrounded by people with FANTASTIC judgement (sic)! Just give in and accept the fact-- YOU ARE LOVEABLE, FANTASTIC, WONDERFULLY TALENTED and a JOY TO HAVE THE PRIVILEDGE OF KNOWING!

Can I lay it on ANY thicker?

For Huron and graduation:

I can't fail you if you can keep coming to classes. That's the last thing I want to do, anyway. So there you have it. A teacher has given in to you. He has told you that you have all of the power in the relationship. He has acknowledged that as long as you can just show up each day for the next few weeks, you will receive FULL credit as if you had been there each day ALL year.

I hope you can handle this power and not take it for granted. If you do, and you blow us off just once between now and graduation, I can't be held responsible for the wrath I will bring. I care too much, and where matters of the heart are concerned, human beings are most illogical...

This isn't a threat. I'm a very passionate man and you know where you stand with me, but please, don't break my heart any more. I can't take it. Honestly. I have to turn in a grade for you. Make it one of honor and truth.”

Roumel argues it's unfair to view those e-mails in the context of their current relationship.

“Trustees, I would hope that any teacher in this district would not be punished for responding to a suicidal student with a supportive, ‘you can do it, you are loved!’ type of e-mail,” he wrote.

Roumel's letter says Mark generated only one complaint from a parent during his nine years at Huron — and it was the complaint by his girlfriend's mother that led to the investigation. 

According to Roumel, Mark only spent social time with his current girlfriend three times while she was a student — going golfing and watching a hockey game, visiting her home to take her to a middle school concert with her mother’s permission and a "quick dinner" at Applebee’s.

Roumel asked trustees to independently reconsider the tenure charges against Mark and reach a decision that would not dismiss him or commence tenure proceedings.

"Once you vote to commence tenure proceedings, Chris Mark’s career will be virtually over," he wrote. "He will be unemployable. No other district will touch him. AAPS will no doubt report, as permitted by state law, that he engaged in 'unprofessional conduct.' And while Chris clings to the hope of winning his tenure case, your attorneys will confirm for you that the chances of teachers ever winning these matters is virtually nil. Once you trustees vote, the downward spiral begins."

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at



Sat, Dec 18, 2010 : 11:06 p.m.

Why on earth did that lawyer ever present this email? I can see how easily this email can be read into as one thing or another. On one hand, it really could be an overzealous 'You can do it!' letter. On the other hand, it could reveal that there was a romantic relationship between a teacher and student. I'm voting for the former, but any opponent to this man could definately get behind the latter.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

The e-mail/letter is indeed very powerful and forceful. While it may have been completely innocent, I still maintain it was inappropriate under the circumstances. Still, the only thing at issue is what the relationship and circumstances were when the e-mail was sent. Today's circumstances don't really matter as both are now "consenting adults".


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 9:21 p.m.

Second note: Read this paragraph and tell me he doesn't try intimidation to get the young girl to do as he wants and this is a text book form of Human Resource Quid Pro Quo: I hope you can handle this power and not take it for granted. If you do, and you blow us off just once between now and graduation, I can't be held responsible for the wrath I will bring. I care too much, and where matters of the heart are concerned, human beings are most illogical...


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 8:59 p.m.

Why are they protecting the girls name now... She's an adult


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 7:43 p.m.

I was in Huron Orchestra for four years and graduated in 2006. With all the information i've seen about this case so far, especially the email from Mr. Mark posted in this article and the written statement from 'the girl' (not naming names) on the Support Mr. Mark facebook group- I can definitely say that I am glad the school board is firing Mr. Mark. Just because he emotionally impacted a bunch of students does not mean that he is exempt from being punished for a thing like this.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 1:54 p.m.

Wow! An interesting story indeed. No impropriety on the part of the teacher? He was 40 at the time? She was 17? When I read the alleged "love letter" I felt the connection between them immediately. Commenter Ashley nailed it in the first line of her second paragraph. Unfortunately, in this day and age, any and all "personal contact" attempts by teachers can, and will, be misjudged. If they were not currently "dating", maybe I could buy it. Never-the-less, there needs to be some thorough and fair investigating to determine what actually did transpire between the two while she was a student. This man's career, and consequently, life, are both on the line. Be fair and be reasonable.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 10:51 a.m.

It's about time the Ann Arbor school board did something about a teacher that clearly was engaging innappropriate behavior with a student. As a parent, I have spent months anguishing over the administration's non chalance about the behavior of a male teacher and my daughter (different teacher, different school). And while it was deemed "inappropriate", he had a "paid vacation" (I think one day unpaid) and all I heard from other parents was what a great teacher he is. What did I hear from the district??? Almost NOTHING! We trust that teacher's will not behave this way with our children. No teacher deserves a "pass" on inappropriate behavior.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

Why did decide to publish the email and letter from the lawyer to the school board? Why not let the school board process run its course?


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 8:48 a.m.

He was clearly trying to recruit the young women, as a teacher in a public school, to Christianity. Church and State, man. That's just wrong. Shamefully wrong.

Steve Pepple

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 7:42 a.m.

A comment that contained unsubstantiated allegations has been removed.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 6:30 a.m.

@musicrat --I'm not sure what experience you have with suicidal teens, but a single teacher even with goodhearted intentions is acting outside of professional bounds trying to rescue a student. I have had family members and friends who were suicidal, luckily still alive now, and the skills of professionals trained to help a struggling teen are what is needed. Readers should view Topher's post that explains some of the resources teachers have available for helping struggling students. A LOVE letter is not standard or appropriate. Liz Margolis and should post what the school's policy is for staff and for teachers when a student is suicidal or in other physical or mental distress. Then compare this to what Mark did. The fact that he is currently involved with this student who is now a consenting adult does not address whether he stepped outside of the professional boundaries of his job, no matter how beloved he is as a teacher


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 12:17 a.m.

I'm going to have to agree with the silliness... The girl was suicidal. If your kid was suicidal, wouldn't you want someone to help them?? Come on now, be realistic. He could've saved a life by writing that letter.. that's speculative, but there should be no doubt he was trying to help a very troubled student out with that letter and obviously, he succeeded. In addition, if the mother had a problem with this... she would've had a problem 5 years ago. If this relationship was obvious and completely inappropriate, the mother would have complained years ago, and so other students would have noticed. Perhaps sometime we should step back and look at this case in context. Should we read one letter and one news article and judge?


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 10:47 p.m.

Any idea if grooming has been defined by the tenure commission or the appellate courts? This does appear inapprpriate on its face, and I would be livid if this occured with one of my daughters. We know the mother's position, but what about the dad's? Personally,I don't think the mother has a case in court, since the daughter is now an adult.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 8:13 p.m.

According to the teacher certification web page, Mr. Mark was born in 1965.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 7:19 p.m.

As DonBee said this is a no win situation for anyone. Mark is obviously a great teacher, I am certain he learned his lesson and moving forward this will never happen again. It isn't like he had a sexual relationship with her. The fact that they are together today shows that Mark was truly trying to help her. Did he step over the boundry, looks like it but I think he deserves another chance.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 7:15 p.m.

My daughter's orchestra teacher is very hands off -- no encouragement, no concern, no support. Perhaps this is why. Are teachers afraid to have any emotions around their students? If this really was 6 years ago, I don't see why it is being brought up now. The girl is plenty old enough to make her own decisions.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 6:46 p.m.

@Davi Napoleon - the focus on the inquiry should not be whether or not Mark is a good teacher; the focus should be on whether he crossed the line of appropriateness as a high school teacher. If AAPS were to find that it Mark did step out of his bounds as a teacher, they should not (probably legally cannot) keep him in the role of teaching. To allow a teacher to stay because he does not show a pattern would be negligent on the part of AAPS. Crossing the line once, regardless of whether the teacher is good or not, is setting an inappropriate standard for our schools.

Davi Napoleon

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 6:21 p.m.

I was teaching at Eastern when Chris Mark studied there, and if he is half as good a teacher as he was a student, the district will be losing someone valuable if it acts to end his tenure at Huron High. I only know what I've read here, but I'm certain that if there were allegations of incidents with other students in the years Mr. Mark has been teaching, they would be part of this story. His behavior in response to one needy student at one moment, whether appropriate or not, doesn't appear to indicate a pattern, and that's something those responsible for the welfare of Huron High students should consider.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 5:37 p.m.

LOL ok Jen you "win" by nuking my post this time but since you appear to have allowed it (for now): What Jake C said. Also saying "Jesus loves you" somehow seems to cross the line between church and state and should be grounds for some repremand there. Not saying any of the apparent emails substantiated the implied insinuations occured or any wrong doing happened in any way in this matter; BUT, just the idea of a teacher taking making moves on an emotionally unbalanced student creeps me out to no end and I think society would agree that allowing unchecked would set a very bad precedient. On the upside kudos for the teacher here being able to tough it out and make the relationship work with the added pressures of age difference, society taboos, social stigmas and whatnot regarding teacher - student relationships. Cheers mate!


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 5:37 p.m.

At least we know there is a process to deal with teachers who break rules. We often hear the myth that it's impossible to fire any tenured teacher.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 5:28 p.m.

Compared to how many people are just skimming right over "peck on the cheek" and "quick dinner," I think way more people read over the "suicidal" part.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 5:01 p.m.

Was the student under 16 when the teacher wrote the "LOVE" letter to her?

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 4:19 p.m.

How old is Mark? How long had he been teaching when this began? Some information is missing here. Was he young enough to be foolish? Was he old enough to know better?


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 4:12 p.m.

Another nobody wins situation. If he stays, some people will charge it is because of the union and tenure. If he goes some people will say he was railroaded. We are in the 5th month of him getting a paid holiday. This is costing the taxpayers money.

Forest City

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 4:06 p.m.

Hey! Teachers! Leave our kids alone!

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 3:48 p.m.

I could live with this edited version... "I LOVE YOU, (student's name),.... My son, LOVES YOU! Jesus LOVES YOU. Why won't YOU love YOU? YOU are surrounded by people with FANTASTIC judgement (sic)! Just give in and accept the fact-- YOU ARE LOVEABLE, FANTASTIC, WONDERFULLY TALENTED and a JOY...." But thats not what was written. Then it goes down hill from there with part two.. As a father of 3 daughters who went to Huron I would have been outraged at those e-mails to one of my daughters.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 3:42 p.m.

Shouldn't the teachers name and location also been kept in confidence until the outcome of the school boards action? Far to often we are quick to make accusations, smear the names of individuals, then forget about it when it's no longer news. I'm surprised would do such a thing!


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 3:12 p.m.

I have read other emails sent by Mr. Mark and have listened to him present his opinions in public. He writes as he speaks, something that most of us cannot do. He is engaging and enthusiastic. The arts (music)without emotional passion is dry and not enjoyable. He brings the musical arts to life! He is innocent until proven guilty. I have trusted my children with him, and their education is better and they are better because of him. I want to see him back in the classroom.

say it plain

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 2:27 p.m.

I think you may be projecting @JayC, lol...I don't read that as a guy about to get dumped much at all, but perhaps more as a hopeful supplicant-to-be sorta statement. This is too much fun, I gotta say. I feel terribly guilty for feeling that way, but still...

Jake C

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 2:18 p.m.

@dougfromA2: Just because the case is now appearing before the school board doesn't mean that complaints were just submitted this year. Some complaints can take years to get through the system. Honestly, the emails creep me out. So does the fact that this teacher "spent social time with his current girlfriend three times while she was a student going golfing and watching a hockey game, visiting her home to take her to a middle school concert with her mothers permission and a "quick dinner" at Applebees." Umm, I never got taken out to dinner by a teacher *alone*, nor were any students I knew at any point in elementary, middle school, high school, or college. Did we have group events sometimes? Sure. But one-on-one events are creepy and have way too much potential for abuse and to be taken out of context, whether or not anything salacious occurred. Plus the earlier email that says: "So there you have it. A teacher has given in to you. He has told you that you have all of the power in the relationship" reads wayyyy too much like a letter from a boyfriend who is about to get dumped than a teacher who is trying to encourage a student to succeed.

say it plain

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 1:51 p.m.

ooh, I somehow missed the 'peck on the cheek' tidbit the first read-thru lol. That could have been quite the meaningful 'peck'. What words accompanied it in the moment?! How much lingering close up before and after?! This reads like a choose-your-own-adventure lolita maybe! So, I am understanding right that currently the of-age daughter is dating Mr. Mark, and it's *only* the 'troubled-family' mom who has complaints about that?! I should stop now, sorry...


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 1:43 p.m.

I for one have some serious concerns about the "tone" of the letter. While this teacher may have much support from former students and parents, it concerns me that he would express himself in such a manner. Obviously, a "troubled student" could very well have been vulnerable to the "insinuations" of the letter. Even that simple"peck" on the cheek was well out of line. While I am not a labor attorney and not fully informed on the issues involved on the boundaries of student/teacher relationship, I do have common sense. I'm concerned about this.

say it plain

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 1:36 p.m.

Now *this*, Mr. Feldscher, is *news*!;-) Salacious titillating news, but news. What will the district do with this one?! You know what it sounds like to me from that piece--and what horrifically violating fun it is to read? That while Mr. Mark might have been trying to refrain from being too, um, transparent about what was happening between them, he surely also was getting in trouble with that 'fine line' one crosses over into a taboo relationship. Dancing right on the edge of it, if not already over it. It sounds like the student was also playing around with it, given the rhetoric here; his reply doesn't look to me like the first time they've done 'professions', unless he is an incredibly melodramatic guy by nature! The whole vibe conjures up sting singing "don't stand so close to me" lol, except this girl was standingsoclose and also threatening self-harm, uhoh, that might be too much! How complicated-sounding. Will we get salacious detail updates?! Poor folks involved, yikes...


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 12:56 p.m.

He provided an e-mail from Mark to the student, which he said was misrepresented by district administrators as a "love letter." Good move by his lawyer. I'm sure drawing public attention to this e-mail will do wonders for his client... Seriously...I'm no lawyer, but what on Earth did this guy think he could possibly stand to gain by doing this?


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 12:55 p.m.

@aaparent - You make a good point about school districts having protocol in place. I'm not sure about AAPS's policy, but a teacher in this situation has many other adults he/she can go to (colleagues, counselors, assistant principals) regardless of the protocol that a school does or does not have. This being said, it is in the best interest of the students, teachers, and district to have a clear protocol in place. (How about implementing Advisories where each teacher, administrator, counselor has a small group of students s/he advocates for?) While teachers do deal with many difficult situations (I am a teacher myself) there is a line between personal and professional that can be difficult for some teachers to recognize. Good districts provide training, offer EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) for mental/physical health, and strong support networks. From the little information that AANews provides (as aaparent points out) the conduct seems very inappropriate to me. I don't think teachers should ever date students - present or past. This doesn't mean that a teacher isn't good at actual teaching - it means that the teacher crossed a professional and personal line that is inappropriate and not in the best interest of the student.

Chris Blackstone

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 12:41 p.m.

Thank you for including the quotes from the emails above. Some of the language used is simply inappropriate between a student and a teacher. Saying "I love you" is very different than saying "You are loved". Referring to "matters of the heart" is language typically reserved for romantic relationships. As a parent, I can understand the girl's mother being concerned.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 12:25 p.m.

There are many resources for troubled students within the school district and in the community. Students in distress need help and a teacher's job is to connect a troubled student with professional resources. Does the district provide staff training for teachers on how to help students so that the teacher is not operating in isolation? Does the district require teachers to follow a set of procedures filing incident reports and notifying other staff members to ensure a student in danger receives help? The reporting on this issue needs elaboration not only because it impacts Mark's career, but to better inform the community about what "best practices" are in the district for helping students who are troubled. I have been impressed with the sensitivity and skill of Ann Arbor public school teachers when students are struggling. This article should indicate whether Mark's actions go outside of what most teachers would do in similar circumstances.


Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 12:16 p.m.

How come my teachers never offered me good grades just for showing up? Probably because I'm ugly.