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District's treatment of New Jersey teacher raises questions

On Sept. 30, 2013, state testing was conducted in a New Jersey classroom. On that day, the teacher was busy making sure that each kid was where they needed to be. Amidst the chaos, two students went missing. The teacher found that the two young children had escaped into the classroom bathroom. It wasn’t their presence in the bathroom that shocked the teacher. It was the fact that the two children were naked.

Without delay, the teacher pulled the children from the room and immediately brought the entire incident to the attention of her supervisor. It was a situation that needed to be addressed, but there are some concerns that have been raised over the way in which the rest of the situation has been handled.

Despite the fact that the 16-year veteran immediately reported the incident, the teacher was told later that day that she was being suspended without pay for failing to supervise the kids.

Now, after an investigation and a closed session meeting with the school board on Wednesday, Feb. 19, there is an indication that the teacher may lose her job as a result of the incident. According to the NY Daily News, the district has yet to cite an official reason for the suspension.

Mullica Township Education Association President Barbara Rheault is one of the individuals that question the disciplinary actions. The teacher “acted in a professional manner and responsibly reported the incident,” she said when she was interviewed by the Daily News.

The state Department of Education also said that the administration never filed an application for termination with the agency, as would be the common practice. A spokeswoman for the department said that “we question why the administration would forgo the disciplinary route available and taken one that is so severe.”

What happens if the teacher does lose her job? Is the failure to submit an application with the state a basis for the termination to be considered a wrongful discharge? An individual with questions about their own termination should consult with an employment law attorney to determine if their rights were violated in any way.

Source: NY Daily News, “New Jersey teacher may lose job after students found naked in bathroom,” Joel Landau, Feb. 23, 2014

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