How much physical contact with a student is sufficient to justify termination?

Coach Alexander’s troubles began when a board member reported to the superintendent that the coach had slapped a student, that student being the board member’s son.   The superintendent investigated.  He found out that there were allegations of two additional incidents involving other students.  On top of that, some people reported that the coach cussed a bit.  The superintendent put the coach on leave with pay. Two months later the board proposed termination.

After hearing from 11 witnesses, the independent hearing examiner concluded that the coach had, indeed, slapped the boy, leaving visible marks on his face; hit a second student on the back of the head, causing pain and embarrassment; and shoved a third student to the ground from a kneeling position.  Critical to the holding was the testimony of an athletic trainer who both saw and heard the slap, and was concerned enough about it to report to CPS.

The board terminated the man’s contract and the Commissioner affirmed that decision. Commissioner Morath was straightforward in his decision:

Each instance of rough handling a student is alone sufficient to establish good cause to terminate Petitioner’s contract.  It is highly inappropriate for teachers to slap and push down students.

The coach alleged that the superintendent’s investigation was biased because the football team was not doing very well. The argument was that the superintendent and board seized on a “playful” incident to justify showing him the door. The coach noted that the boy had two relatives on the school board—both his father and his grandfather.

But as the Commissioner noted, “A biased investigation would not be able to influence an independent hearing examiner who is appointed by the Commissioner and who makes a decision only after all the evidence presented by both sides under a statute that provides for full due process protections.”

This is a strong statement from the Commissioner about physical mistreatment of students. As to the cursing, we’ll talk about that tomorrow. Stay tuned!

The case is Alexander v. Troup ISD, decided by the Commissioner on May 20, 2016: Docket No. 023-R2-02-2016.


File this one under: LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT

Tomorrow: You may be shocked.  SHOCKED!! To learn that a football coach used profanity.