Thursday, October 4, 2012

Court of Appeals, in rare move, reverses Ohio Department of Education on finding educator had committed "conduct unbecoming" the teaching profession

In a rare move, the 10th District Court of Appeals has reversed a finding that an educator committed conduct unbecoming the teaching profession. In that case, a 25 year teaching veteran restrained a student who was out of control. As a result of the restraint, the student ended up with scratches and red marks on his lower back and buttocks. The teacher did not have first aid administered immediately, but allowed the child to proceed home on a school bus, with directions to have the child's mother call the teacher. Once home, the child's mother gave him a bath and applied Neosporin. The teacher did not immediately fill out the paperwork reporting her encounter with the student and his minor injuries. Though she began a report, she was interrupted by teaching preparation. As a result of this, and the fact that her principal was not in school, her report of the incident was was not submitted until the next Monday. On these facts, ODE initiated charges, claiming that the teacher's actions amounted to 'conduct unbecoming' the teaching profession. After a hearing, the ODE found that the teacher had engaged in conduct unbecoming the teaching profession and that her license should be permanently revoked. That finding was upheld by a court of common pleas judge. However, the 10th District reversed the decision on appeal and remanded the case for further proceedings at the Ohio Department of Education. In reaching its decision, the court noted that, "[t]eachers are called upon to make professional judgments every day and the reasonable exercise of such professional judgment cannot constitute a violation of R.C. 3319.31(B) as conduct unbecoming a classroom teacher." Sending the case back to ODE, the agency must now answer the question: "whether a teacher who accidentally inflicts scratches on an out-of-control preschool student deserves disciplinary action from ODE and, if disciplinary action is warranted, what discipline is appropriate?" I would hope for the sake of Ohio's educators that the answer to the first question is no, and that the second question then becomes moot.