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Tribunal says fired teacher should get his job back

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - A teacher who was terminated will have his job restored by virtue of a decision by a three-person tribunal panel.

Superintendent Keith Davis terminated Dale Beasley, a fifth-grade teacher at Old Mill Elementary, on Oct. 18, 2009, for conduct unbecoming of a teacher.

After listening to testimony from Beasley and a number of witnesses from the school system, the tribunal ruled that two of the disciplinary charges should be dismissed and the termination action would be modified.

Tribunal members included administrator Norman Darland from Mackville, teacher Jill Kaiser of Lexington and lay person Barbara Sonnen of Frankfort.

According to the report secured by The Pioneer News through an open records request, Beasley was terminated due to actions in his fifth-grade classroom.

The allegations were that a female student did not have a pencil to take a test. After 10 minutes of testing, Beasley realized the student didn’t have a pencil and wasn’t taking the exam.

The instructor lifted the girl from her chair and she almost fell. He walked her to the pencil tin and told her to return to her seat. At that point, she began crying.

According to the report prepared by hearing officer Michael Head of the state attorney general’s office, the tribunal said “Mr. Beasley was probably a little rougher than he should have been in lifting (the student) out of her chair” but didn’t believe he jerked her out.

The board didn’t feel Beasley considered the impact of his actions and words on the emotional needs of the student.

During his testimony, the tribunal said the teacher expressed more concern about his competitive nature to have the class score better on the test than about the student’s well-being.

The panel found that Beasley did perform conduct unbecoming of a teacher and that this action came after several prior warnings.

The recommendation was to modify the termination notice and make it a suspension without pay from the date of the termination letter to the date of the final order.

When he returns to the classroom, the school district would provide a teaching professional to observe Beasley in the classroom and make recommendations for improvement on his anger management and classroom management skills.

Beasley would be required to implement the recommendations of the teaching professional.

The action came on the heels of a private reprimand and two other charges.

In September 2009, Beasley was told of procedures to take in dealing with a student who had a severe peanut allergy. A plan was worked out prior to the beginning of the school year.

The student saw that Beasley had an empty Snickers wrapper on his desk. Later, the student reported feeling embarrassed when the teacher allegedly made a comment about getting caught with the candy bar.

No action was taken by the tribunal on the private reprimand.

Beasley was given a three-day suspension in the 2009-10 school year for making comments about his second-grade class.

In talking about test results, Beasley admitted saying something like “You guys are acting like idiots. You’re not idiots.”

While inappropriate, the majority of the tribunal did not feel it was conduct unbecoming a teacher.

That charge was dismissed.

The final charge was a public reprimand by principal Les McIntosh.

On May 3, 2010, Beasley disputed several items in his evaluation.

The principal felt threatened when Beasley stood up and slapped his hands on the desk.

Once again, the tribunal determined that the actions by Beasley were inappropriate; however, they did not feel it was at the level of conduct unbecoming of a teacher.

The tribunal ruled that the charge should also be dismissed.

The school system has 30 days to appeal the decision to Bullitt Circuit Court.

Board attorney Eric Farris said the ruling would be appealed. While Beasley would be eligible to return to work immediately, Farris said he has been working with attorney Jeffrey Walther of Lexington to work on some agreement on returning to work.

Beasley would be eligible for any back pay if the appeal were denied. The two parties understand that it would not be in anyone’s best interest for the teacher to just appear back in his Old Mill classroom.

In a statement released by Farris for the school system, “our highest duty as a school system is protecting our students from harm - both physical and emotional. The accepted facts and findings of the tribunal convened to review the termination of Mr. Beasley’s teaching contract indicated that a person entrusted with our children violated that duty on a number of occasions.

“The school district believes that such behavior constitutes conduct unbecoming a teacher. Based on that belief, the superintendent made the decision that was in the best interest of our students. Unbelievably, the tribunal panel found that these admitted actions did not rise to the level of conduct unbecoming a teacher and overturned the termination.”