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April 20, 2014

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Clark County School District explains policies on notifying parents, disciplining teachers

Students claim substitute teacher harassed them

KSNV coverage of elementary school students claiming a substitute teacher hit students and yelled profanities, Feb. 9, 2012.

After a local substitute teacher was barred from teaching at one elementary school last week on allegations that he hit and yelled profanities at students, the Sun wondered how the Clark County School District goes about determining when a school-related incident rises to a level where parents are notified.

On Feb. 3, a couple of fourth-grade students at Elizabeth Wilhelm Elementary School said a substitute teacher – whose full identity was not revealed – yelled “Shut the hell up” and slapped a student, according to incident reports and secondary accounts by parents. Parents weren’t notified of the incident until the following week in a letter from the principal, stating the teacher was no longer allowed to teach at Wilhelm.

The School District and its police department are investigating the incident, but parents of the affected student questioned why they weren’t notified immediately, and wondered what disciplinary actions, if any, were taken on the substitute teacher.

“I was livid for the fact that the school didn’t notify anybody (until the following week),” said Trent Tweddle, the father of a daughter in the class who witnessed the incident. “If you’re going to have subs who treat kids like that, they don’t need to be teaching.”

Principals ultimately make the decision to notify parents of these types of incidents on a case-by-case basis, according to School District spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson. The district’s communications department helps schools craft the parental notification letter, she added. The principal has declined media interviews.

Although parents may learn of the nature of incidents involving inappropriate actions by teachers, the School District cannot legally notify parents about any disciplinary actions taken on these teachers, who are protected under confidentiality clauses under School District policies, teacher contracts and the Nevada Revised Statutes, Fulkerson said.

The School District Regulations 1212 and 4311 state that “Confidential information concerning all personnel will be safeguarded” and “All personnel information regarding district employees is confidential and may be reviewed only on a need-to-know basis.”

The School District is working to put in place a new teacher evaluation system, and an easier way to remove subpar teachers from the classroom, Fulkerson said. Currently, teachers may only be dismissed by an arbitrator; the superintendent does not have the power to directly fire teachers, she added.

“In a district this big with 20,000 teachers, you’re going to have a few bad apples,” Fulkerson said. “We’re looking at a new method to retain good teachers and discipline bad ones.

“This is not about attacking teachers,” she said. “It’s about restructuring our policies so that we’re not working under archaic rules.”

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  1. Even though I don't condone the subs actions, given the school is at Martin Luther King and Alexander, I highly doubt there's much parent involvement unless there's an incident such as this. I suspect teachers are verbally abused daily at this school and I'd be willing to bet not one parent has ever been to the school to address the actions of their child.

  2. 1) What cover up, and what does the school board have to do with what happened at a school?

    2) The parents were notified, as were the appropriate authorities, when it was found out, and then found to be true. How do you know the child reported it to the administration right then and there? you don't. And, if you know anything about children, you probably know they went home, told their parents who then contacted the school the next morning; and then the investigation began.

    This being a substitute, was probably not at the school the next day, had to be tracked down through sub services, and then called in for questioning.

    Despite what people think, teachers (and subs) are still innocent until proven guilty of any accusation. The school can't send home notice against any adult- or other student- until it has been proven true. (slander 101)

    Also, the letters are online; no CD needed. However, letters still need to be proofed by communications before disseminating. Otherwise, you run into issues like the one in VA, where a company put out a letter that said the health problems in the region were due to the locals marrying cousins instead of the arsenic they used in the mining (yes, that happened last summer).

    So, once it was found to be true letters went out to the parents.

    And finally, the Sun should have done a better job writing the article to begin with. Substitutes are not under contract, do not belong to the union, and do not have the same protections as teachers. They can be asked not to come back, be fired and lose their license at the whim of Sub Services. Too many complaints from schools and you can be removed from the call list. Substitutes do not need any education experience, or even education courses. They have no classes in classroom management. Some may be retired teachers, but most are not. I believe you only need a minimum of 18 (?) college credits- in any subject to sub. They make 100$ a day, put up with different kids in different schools every day; never knowing what will happen or what to expect. They don't have to be given a prep, and can be asked to any duty necessary. Quite frankly, it's a crap job (been there, done that). Most people do it for the extra money while in college and the ability to pick a few days a week to work.

    The writer mixed teacher contract and fire procedures with the actions of the substitute, who does not have the same hire or fire process.

    I don't condone the substitute's actions, and I'm not making excuses for her/him. There is a lot of misinformation out there about everything that goes on in the school district; just trying to set some of it straight.