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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

National teacher quality group weighs in on Florida case



In its latest bulletin, the National Council on Teacher Quality takes an arbitrator to task for letting a Sarasota County teacher back in the classroom despite finding abuse charges against her - charges that including hitting, kicking and pushing severely disabled students - "credible." It writes:

Apparently the abuse inflicted by the teacher was not nearly as compelling to the arbitrator as the technical mistakes made by the school district in making its case against the teacher.

What sort of fatal mistakes? First, the aides had held off reporting the abuse, as they chose instead to build a case over four months in which they kept a daily log. Their prolonged silence, the defense maintained, argued against the severity of the teacher's actions. Second, while the principal had also suspected the teacher of abusing students and warned her in a meeting not to "hit, hurt, or treat the students roughly in any way," she had never transferred that verbal warning into writing or alerted the teacher that the meeting was classified as disciplinary.

We think there's a more fundamental problem revealed in this decision, one having to do with noneducators deciding what constitutes professional behavior of educators. It doesn't seem as if it should take an educator to reach the common sense judgment that a teacher who inflicts a "back-handed slap to a student's head" should not be permitted to continue to teach children, but there's ample evidence that the court system routinely can't get it right.

How often does the court system do this in Florida? We're not sure, but we know a good place to start. As The Gradebook reported back in July, Florida administrative law judges side with teachers more than 40 percent of the time. Anybody have time to take a closer look at those cases?

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:37am]


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