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COA upholds termination of Bloomington high school teacher

June 27, 2013

Finding that substantial evidence supported the decision by the school board to end Bloomington High School South teacher Stephen Smith’s contract, and that the board followed proper procedures in canceling the contract, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s affirmation of the board’s decision.

The Monroe County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees ended Smith’s contract in the summer of 2011 for insubordination, neglect of duty and other good or just cause. Smith, who taught at the school for 20 years and coached the freshman boys’ baseball team, was placed on paid administrative leave following loud and obscene outbursts at a social studies department meeting in May 2011. The outbursts came just a month after he suffered a severe injury after being hit in the head by a baseball.

As part of the leave, Smith was not allowed on any MCCSC property. The administrative leave was extended on July 15, 2011, and he was informed over the phone the same conditions applied. His termination came after he went to an elementary school to return a key to a staff member.

Many of Smith’s challenges on appeal asked the judges to reweigh evidence, which it would not do. In Stephen G. Smith v. Board of School Trustees of the Monroe County Community School Corporation, 53A01-1211-MI-511,the appellate court found the rule prohibiting him from any school property was not ambiguous or unreasonable. It also found that the board’s conclusion that Smith willfully disobeyed the rule prohibiting him from school property is not clearly erroneous.

Smith’s due process rights were not violated because the notice given to him by the school was sufficient, the judges held. The notice amply stated the reasons for the preliminary decision to end his contract and the summary facts put him on notice of the facts the school corporation planned to present at the conference before the board.

 The COA also noted no error in the admission of hearsay testimony and that the board’s decision was not based solely on hearsay evidence.
 

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