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Court upholds 2-year suspension of teacher’s license

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An administrative law judge in the Indiana Department of Education correctly imposed a two-year suspension of a special education teacher’s license, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. The court found no error in the ALJ’s reliance on a California case when considering whether to revoke or suspend a teaching license.

In 2010, Dr. Tony Bennett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, recommended that Patricia Terkosky’s license been revoked based on immorality and misconduct in office. The move stems from three reported incidents in Terkosky’s Worthington Elementary School classroom in 2008 and 2010. In 2008, Terkosky reportedly made a student stand between an easel and the chalkboard and struck the easel with a yardstick. In 2010, Terkosky reportedly grabbed a student by the arm and forced her to sit down, which led to redness and bruising on an arm. Terkosky also reportedly “popped” a student who suffered from Pica in the mouth for eating an eraser. Terkosky claimed she was trying to get the eraser out of the mouth so the student wouldn’t choke.

Instead of revoking her license for three years as Bennett sought, the ALJ imposed a two-year suspension. The ALJ noted that there is no Indiana caselaw defining “what constitutes immorality or misconduct for the purposes of license revocation,” so the judge turned to the California Supreme Court decision of Morrison v. State Bd. of Educ., 461 P.2d 375 (Cal. 1969), to come to the decision to suspend her license.

Terkosky argued that the trial court erred in concluding the ALJ possessed authority to impose a sanction different than what Bennett recommended and in finding that the ALJ’s order complied with I.C. 20-28-5-7.

“Section 7 provides that ‘[o]n the written recommendation of the state superintendent, the department may suspend or revoke a license . . . .’ Our interpretation of this clause is the same as that of the IDOE: Section 7 assigns to the Superintendent the role of initiating proceedings against a teaching license, and it assigns to the IDOE the role of determining the action to take against the license,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote in Patricia Terkosky v. Indiana Department of Education, 49A02-1212-PL-1000.

“[Terkosky] maintains that ‘[i]nstead of conducting a factor analysis under Morrison, the ALJ should have examined Indiana law as it relates to the meaning of the terms “immorality” and “misconduct in office” in the license revocation context. We cannot say that the ALJ’s reference to Morrison was improper,” she continued. “… the only substantive difference between the Morrison factors and those listed in 515 Ind. Admin. Code § 9-1-18(h) is that, in place of the seventh factor in the Indiana Administrative Code, evidence of rehabilitation, the test in Morrison contains a factor to examine the praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of the motives resulting in the conduct.”

Terkosky’s acts, when viewed together, were found to have offended generally accepted standards of conduct of teachers and constituted misconduct in office, the judges held. The two-year suspension was not contrary to law.
 

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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