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A state arbitrator has upheld the five-day suspension of a seventh-grade science teacher who was accused of staring at students' breasts, inappropriately touching of a female student's buttocks and embarrassing a male student about his weight.

Todd Jesperson, 42, a Zimmerman Middle School science teacher for 11 years and longtime girls' tennis coach, has already served the suspension without pay, Rodney Barnes of the Elk River School District said Friday. It was related to events in fall 2009.

A state arbitrator, responding to a grievance by Jesperson, last week affirmed the district's actions. Those include the right to discharge Jesperson should he violate any part of a four-page letter of notice.

Jesperson, who has served 20 years in the Air National Guard and is described in the arbitrator's 54-page report as a "family man," still teaches at the middle school. Reached Friday, he said he had no comment.

"We took this matter seriously," said Barnes, the district's head of labor relations and personnel services.

Jesperson allegedly stared at students' breasts in class and at a parent-teacher conference, students complained between 1999 and 2004.

After denying the allegations, Jesperson received a directive from the Elk River School District in 2004. Five years later, in September 2009, Jesperson was accused of placing a candy bar in a student's sweatshirt front pocket instead of her extended hand. He later acknowledged that "I may have put my hand in her pocket, but I tried not to."

The candy bar was supposed to be a reward for the student's actions, Jesperson had said. "The thing we can't prove is, what was the intent?" Barnes said.

Jesperson also acknowledged that he may have inadvertently touched the girl's buttocks, the report said. "It's possible that I bumped her bottom when I removed my hand," he said.

In October 2009, students alleged that Jesperson, on three occasions, stared at their breasts or looked down their shirts. That month, he also was accused of implying that a male student was overweight in front of the class.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419