Rights of teachers, students

Published:

The Ledger Independent, Maysville

Heres one that will not only open your eyes but also make them cross from the sheer absurdity of it all.

In Floyd County, a teacher charged with drug trafficking has been put back in the classroom pending outcome of the case. School district officials say they have little choice as the case works its way through the court system.

After the teacher was indicted by a Floyd County grand jury almost a year ago, she was given a 45-day leave with pay. At the end of that time, she returned to work in a non-teaching position in the districts central office in Prestonsburg until the end of the school year. When classes resumed this fall, the teacher returned to the school and her class of elementary school students to teach health and physical education.

We can find some measure of sympathy for the position the school district finds itself in. It wants to do the right thing by protecting the teachers presumption of innocence until proven guilty and protect students. But state law mandates that the teacher cannot be reassigned without her agreement and the state Constitution prohibits paying employees to do nothing. So the board must keep the teacher on staff and place her in a position she doesnt find objectionable.

We certainly subscribe to the theory of innocent until proven guilty and to the basic goodness and morality of the vast majority of teachers. But we also realize that parents who must send their children into a classroom taught by someone facing drug charges have a legitimate cause for concern.

We would hope that a teacher who really has the best interest of students at heart would do the right thing and ask for a non-classroom reassignment until the matter is resolved. But that hasnt happened here and may not.

The Kentucky School Boards Association has legislation in the works for the 2006 General Assembly that would make it easier for superintendents to reassign teachers facing criminal charges. In the meantime, Floyd County seems to be stuck in a difficult situation.

And while we dont envy Floyd County regarding its problem, we also realize that until changes are made our schools are just as vulnerable as any other district as they try to protect the rights of both teachers and students in what has become a bad situation.

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