SLO County teacher accused of threatening co-workers charged with 5 felonies

A teacher accused of threatening three co-workers at Atascadero Middle School has been charged with five felonies, court documents show.

The Atascadero Police Department arrested James Klink, 56, on Jan. 17 after investigating criminal threats he allegedly made against Atascadero Middle School Principal Brent Vander Weide and assistant principals Megan Kok and Timothy Sobraske.

On Wednesday, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed a total of five felony counts of making criminal threats against Klint.

According to the complaint, Klink threatened to commit a crime against his colleagues that would result in “great bodily injury or death” five separate times between Jan. 13 and 16 — twice to Kok, twice to Sobraske and once to Weide.

Atascadero Unified School District Superintendent Tom Butler told The Tribune that Klink allegedly sent the threats via voicemail.

Klink, a physical education teacher, was not on the middle school’s campus when the threats were sent, Butler said.

Klink was placed on leave from the middle school after working there for less than a month in the fall, according to Butler.

Klink’s next court date is scheduled for Feb. 21, the District Attorney’s Office said.

Teacher accused of inappropriate touching, ‘weird workouts’

Klink began working at Atascadero Middle School on Aug. 12 and was placed on leave on Sept. 2, Butler told The Tribune.

Klink was not on campus after Sept. 2, Butler added.

Klink was placed on leave after several students reported that he made them uncomfortable during his physical education class. One student also said that he allegedly touched a student’s breast while in class.

The Tribune spoke to three students, all 14 years old. They will not be identified due to their age.

“He deserves to be in jail,” said one girl who was in Klink’s eighth-grade PE class. “Even the boys felt uncomfortable.”

“He would make us do some pretty weird workouts,” she continued. “And the whole time he would be really creepy and stare at us … in a way that made us all uncomfortable.”

The students said Klink made kids in his PE class stretch and bend over while he stared at the girls from behind.

One girl said Klink made the students “shake their butts” and the boys would laugh.

During one class, students said, Klink was staring at a young female student and asked her to sit next to him on the bleachers. Then he allegedly touched her breast, the students said.

The girl then left Klink and went to her friends, seeming like she was uncomfortable and scared, one student told The Tribune.

One student said that she reported the incident with the girl to school administrators, who made her fill out an incident report.

The other students in Klink’s class said they reported his general behavior during class to administrators.

“Everything that was reported at any time was fully and comprehensively investigated,” Butler said. “This one individual does not represent the great, talented staff that we have in Atascadero Unified. We take the students’ concerns very seriously. ...

“The employee discipline process was fully activated and fully completed regarding any of those behaviors that the students may be referring to.”

According to Butler, Atascadero Unified is undergoing the termination process to remove Klink from its staff.

The district has also sent information to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing in hopes that Klink will not be hired at another school, Butler added.

“Please rest assured that the district places the highest value on the safety of our students and staff and is taking all necessary precautions to ensure our students and campuses are safe,” Butler wrote in a letter sent to the middle school’s parents and guardians on Jan. 31. “The district is taking all appropriate personnel actions regarding the employee. ... In addition, the school district immediately and actively partnered with law enforcement to make sure our students and staff are safe”

The Atascadero Police Department did not confirm whether Klink’s conduct with students was being investigated.

“We cannot comment further as this is all under investigation,” Terrie Banish, spokesperson for the city, told The Tribune via email.