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July 31, 2015

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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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