Sunday, February 23, 2014

Teacher's use of corporal punishment and "disturbing attitude" warrant termination of employment

  Arbitrator Edmund Gerber has sustained charges of "conduct unbecoming a teacher" against a teacher accused of using corporal punishment against a four year old pre-kndergarten student. Grievant denied he struck the child but acknowledged he "tapped him on the rear."

Arbitrator Gerber did not find Grievant's testimony credible, and relied instead on the testimony of a witness, finding that Grievant did strike the child with force. Evaluating Grievant's conduct in light of a NJ statute proscribing corporal punishment with very limited exceptions, the Arbitrator found Grievant's conduct constituted conduct unbecoming  a teacher warranting discipline. Rejecting Grievant's contention that, in any case, the penalty was too severe, Arbitrator Gerber concluded:

[Grievant] argues that even if his conduct warrants disciplinary action, the penalty of removal is disproportionate to the offence and cites several cases involving corporal punishment where the courts found that removal was not warranted. ... Redcay stands for the proposition that one incident of corporal punishment should be balanced against a career of teaching and here [Grievant] has been a full time teacher for twelve years. However, none of the cited cases were factually similar to the instant matter. None of the cases involved such a young child, four years old, who was subjected to physical force to maintain discipline. ... Nor did the cases involve a teacher who refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his or her actions. ... Such a disturbing attitude leaves open the prospect that a teacher  returned to the classroom may perpetuate such conduct. [Grievant] has exhibited a similar disturbing attitude. The District, by clear and convincing evidence, has established that [Grievant] struck Q.C., yet [Grievant] continued to deny he struck the child. ... [Grievant's] disturbing attitude leaves open the possibility that  his unacceptable conduct would be repeated.

Based on his finding that Grievant had in fact struck the child, and Grievant's "refusal to take responsibility", the Arbitrator concluded that Grievants removal from the District was warranted.

Arbitrator Gerber's decision can be found here.

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