Friday, April 26, 2013

Kentucky Supreme Court Vindicates Rosalind Hurley-Richards

Silberman's Firing of Fayette County Teacher Overturned

Hurley-Richards Not Guilty of "conduct unbecoming a teacher"

"Based upon our interpretation of the applicable law,
we conclude that Richards' conduct during the event under review,  
as found by the Tribunal and described in its final order, 
 did not constitute "conduct unbecoming a teacher."

 --The Kentucky Supreme Court 

Overshadowed by yesterday's Kentucky Supreme Court's ruling calling for Miranda warnings for school students, was the long-awaited appeal of Rosalind Hurley-Richards' case against the Fayette County Public Schools. She won again.

For those keeping score at home, Hurley-Richards 
  1. was accused of mishandling an unruly second grade child
  2. was suspended and then dismissed by FCPS Superintendent Stu Silberman
  3. Hurley-Richards asked for a Tribunal
  4. The Tribunal held in favor of Hurley-Richards and overturned the dismissal
  5. The Fayette County Board of Education decided to appeal
  6. In the Fayette Circuit Court Judge Ernesto Scorsone held for Hurley-Richards
  7. The Fayette County Board of Education decided to appeal
  8. The Kentucky Court of Appeals held for Hurley-Richards
  9. The Fayette County Board of Education decided to appeal
  10. The Kentucky Supreme Court held for Hurley-Richards
Got it?

 In 2009, as a teacher at Cardinal Valley, EITHER, Hurley-Richards...
"who had one arm full of school supplies, placed her other arm around [an unruly second grade boy] and proceeded to direct him toward the school’s office," according to the Administrative Tribunal.
OR, according to Silberman's dismissal letter, Hurley-Richards...    
"physically attacked a student who [she] had scolded for running down the hall, by grabbing the student, placing [her] arm around his neck and choking him. [She] then dragged the student to the principal's office while continuing to keep the student's neck in a choke hold and berating and yelling at him."
The Tribunal heard witnesses but didn't buy Silberman's version of the events. 

[Richards] had obviously unintentionally slid her hand around the neck/ shoulder area to keep the child moving forward next to her. Her hold on [the boy] was not sufficiently tight to prevent his crying and complaining and the adults who were at the situation did not react as if the child was in harm's way.
The question before the court was, “What is the meaning of the phrase, "conduct unbecoming a teacher," as used in KRS 161.790(1)(b)?” The question is significant because under the statute, "conduct unbecoming a teacher" is one of four reasons for which a public school teacher can be fired. 

The court agreed that “upon judicial review, deference extends to agency fact-finding. However, matters of law, including the interpretation and construction of statutes are…within the province of the judicial branch of government.

The court didn’t buy Silberman’s take on what really happened. 
Instead the court sided with Hurley-Richards, the Tribunal, the Circuit Court, and the Court of Appeals, and determined that the teacher’s actions did not constitute conduct unbecoming a teacher. It's not too difficult to understand why Silberman might want to appeal the case. But given the findings of the Tribunal, especially once confirmed by the Circuit Court, it's much harder to understand why the Board of Education agreed to appeal, after appeal, after appeal.

Here's the backstory from KSN&C:
Hat tip to Mark Walsh at Ed Week's School Law Blog.


Anonymous said...

This is a great victory for Mrs. Hurley-Richards, Mr. Silberman was a cunning man who slowly eroded the rights of educators in Fayette County Public Schools. Those of us who knew him were aware that he cared first about making a name for himself.

There is justice.

Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased for Rosalind. If only Peggy had fared as well.....

Anonymous said...

There was an attempt during the Silberman regime to create a certain type of educator.

This was an educator who, by adopting the model "It's about kids," would do absolutely nothing that could be interpreted as harming a child. This meant teachers gave away grades, teachers were afraid to give negative feedback to parents, and there was to be no discipline that could be interepreted as rough or punitive.

The fact that educator Mrs. Hurley-Richards won her Kentucky Supreme Court case against Fayette County Public Schools speaks volumes. This ruling is, on a certain level, a final repudiation of the Silberman way of doing things. Most telling is the lack of media coverage the story received. We know it will not be discussed on the Pritchard Blog. Will Jim Warren overlook it, too? There are many who will protect both Mr. Silberman's image and legacy.

Kentucky educators have learned a good deal about what "conduct unbecoming a teacher" means. On a deeeper level, though, we now know the meaning of "conduct unbecoming a superintendent."

I suspect I am not the only one smiling this morning.

Sic semper tyrannis

Anonymous said...

If only more people were in a position to fight all the wrong that Stu Silberman has done in FCPS.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last reader. Dr. Silberman was a power hungry, ruthless, self promoter.

Sensing that a weary Fayette County Board of Education was over superintendents who would left too soon or those who would not propose radical changes to placate a public that didn't understand why student achievement was lacking, he came in as the "savior" and placed FCPS on the course it follows today: "Test preparation." Adopting the attitude that the "teacher was the problem," he emasculated the teaching staff while telling the parents their kids came first. The teachers were always wrong in cases involving student discipline. (And so were security staff, too. Remember the Dunbar incident?)

T'm pleased Rosalind was exonerated. My only question: What about all those who left quietly, without a fight? What about all the lives Mr. Silberman destroyed?

Anonymous said...

I heard he kicked a stray dog, fell asleep for three minutes one time during the preacher's sermon and turned in a Goodwill donation list for his taxes that included two pairs of slacks that he never really donated!

Anonymous said...

By the way, the story broke on NPR today. They mentioned Rosalind by name, but failed to mention Silberman, the man who got her in this mess.

Anonymous said...

Hating to take the other side, but on this one, I was there and watched her choke the child. It was an awful scene.

Richard Day said...

May 1, 2013 at 12:18 PM: Perhaps the major weakness of this blog is that folks are free to post anonymously. It is a blessing and a curse.

But in this case, where an anonymous post makes a specific claim against another individual, readers must be skeptical about the true identity of the commenter.

Since there were only a very small number of individuals present during the event, it's not too difficult to verify. But it would help readers if you would be so kind as to repost your comment using your name. That way readers could better determine if you are who you say you are, and whether to believe the comment.