The Prick of Local Authority

What to make of the story of the teacher who accidentally stapled a student’s head?

A Superior Court judge has upheld the firing of a Smithfield social studies teacher for stapling a student’s scalp during a classroom stunt three years ago.
Judge Daniel A. Procaccini ruled that the Smithfield School Committee, the state education commissioner and the state Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education Appeals Committee showed “good and just cause” in finding that Bethany St. Pierre should be dismissed from her job as a Smithfield High School social studies teacher after injuring a student and then urging the class to cover it up.

The education commissioner’s finding of facts, in February 2008, offers a good summary of the incident (PDF). As ever, multiple issues come into play. Should the teacher have been fired for the accident? Absolutely not; our attempts at an antiseptic society contribute (I believe) to a bevy of our current problems, including educational mediocrity. Should she have been fired for not taking appropriate steps that would have alerted other adults to the incident and suggesting that the students keep the incident in the classroom? Probably not, although her first reaction clearly should have been to send the student to the nurse, personally notify the principal, and send a note to the parents (or pick up the phone) to explain the incident. But was the school within its rights to fire her for a mere error of judgment? Yes.
Look, the courts should not be a mechanism for interested parties (such as unions or private associations, like church groups) to leverage higher tiers of government to micromanage the decisions of officials in lower tiers. Resolve the issue through the administrative and political processes available for that purpose. Relying on the judiciary merely lets everybody in power off the hook.

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George
George
11 years ago

Good thing he wasn’t drunk when he did that… he most certainly would have been reinstated.

Michael
Michael
11 years ago

I have to totally disagree with you. You need to understand the Good and Just Cause statue, and must understand what it states in the tenure teacher act.
This teacher was terminated for not sending an 15 year old high school student, who insisted multiple times that he was fine, to the nurse.
Bottom line, this was a non incident. A mole hill made into a mountain by an incompetent school superintendent.
This teacher was fired because 3 out of 21 students testified 6 months after the incident that the teacher “may” have said something about not taking it out of the class after being led by the school’s attorney, Ben Scungio. The “victim” himself testified several times that the teacher NEVER tried to cover this up. Wouldn’t that be who one would want to make sure doesn’t say anything if you were trying to cover this up?
This teacher was fired because she didn’t tell the principal about a non incident.
EVERY prior termination of a tenured teacher, with an exceptional record, had to do with anger, animus, or inappropriate touching.
This finding has ultimately distroyed the protection the tenure teacher act has afforded teachers in this state. School Committee will now have the ability to terminate at will.
This finding also destroyed this well liked, respected, highly educated, and popular teacher’s career, and her personal life.
Bottom line, the punishment does not fit the crime, and the Good and Just Cause that was established to protect teachers in situations like this was not followed.

bobc
bobc
11 years ago

Michael, I think you’re getting hysterical.

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