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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 Tony Bennett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, recommended that Patricia Terkosky’s license been revoked based on immorality and misconduct in office.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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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