A school district board of trustees voted to terminate a teacher’s contract. The teacher requested a hearing regarding the proposed termination.

At the hearing, evidence was introduced showing that the teacher worked at the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program for elementary school level students. She had been a teacher there for five years and had been employed at the district for 24 years. She had been reprimanded for aggressive physical and verbal behavior toward students in the past.

The incident that prompted the district to terminate her contract occurred when a female student poured glue on a picture in a newspaper being used as a teaching exercise. The student was upset because the teacher had made a statement about the student’s father being in jail. The student’s father and sister were both incarcerated. The teacher asked the student to stop pouring the glue on the newspaper but the student did not comply. The teacher reached out her hand, took the newspaper from the student and shoved it onto the student’s T-shirt, smearing the glue onto the shirt. The student responded by taking the newspaper and pushing it into the teacher’s chest, whereupon the teacher struck the student in the face. The teacher then pushed the student backward while holding the newspaper, smearing glue onto the student’s face, ear, hair, leg and chest. The student left the classroom and went to the office.

The teacher argued that she was immune from disciplinary proceedings because she had used reasonable force to maintain order in the classroom. The board of trustees found that she had used excessive force against the student and voted to terminate her contract. She appealed to the commissioner of education.

The commissioner upheld the termination, noting that working in the alternative school is difficult because students can be disrespectful, rude and, on occasion, violent. The teacher had a good record. However her use of physical force against the student was excessive and objectively unreasonable. Therefore, good cause to terminate the contract existed.