Middleton School District Delays Decision On Reinstating Teacher

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District’s Board of Education met Monday night to decide whether to reinstate a teacher who viewed porn at work but the board delayed making a decision.

The school board said Monday night that it didn’t have enough information to decide on reinstating teacher Andrew Harris.

Tim Statz, the school board’s vice president, declined to say what additional information was needed, but said he expects a final decision on whether to appeal an arbitrator’s decision or give Harris his job back at next week’s school board meeting.

“I’d rather not reveal the information that we’ve requested our administration and our legal counsel to provide,” Statz said.

After a brief call to order, the board met in closed session for two hours Monday night, ultimately reaching no result.

The school district said it dismissed teacher Harris for viewing and forwarding pornographic material on his work email.

Harris was placed on administrative leave from his job as a science teacher at Glacier Creek Middle School in Cross Plains in December 2009 after the school district found he received 23 inappropriate emails. He was placed on unpaid leave a month later and formally dismissed by the Board of Education on May 3, 2010.

The district worked to assure parents no children saw them or were involved but fired Harris and reported his conduct to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as immoral.

An arbitrator said the punishment was not equal to other employees who were found to have inappropriate content in their emails, saying, “The problem is that the district can’t have it both ways. It cannot go to the parents and press and say, ‘There’s no harm to your kids’ … and then go to the DPI and say — ‘There’s risk and harm of endangerment.'”

The arbitrator ruled that Harris’ dismissal should be vacated and replaced with a 15-day suspension. Under the ruling, Harris would be reinstated and given his old job back or an equivalent one.

One parent and husband of a Middleton teacher who attended the Monday’s meeting sided with Harris and the arbitrator.

“It was a mistake to fire him,” said parent Mark Scudder. “I think they would have been better off giving him a letter of warning or a suspension or something of that nature, and telling him not to do it again; and if he does it again, then they’ve got a really strong case against him.”

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District said it has already spent nearly $400,000 on the arbitration case.

Scudder said he’s concerned about the amount of money the district has already spent on the case and doesn’t want to see those costs escalate if the board decides to appeal.

The school board will meet again next Monday night.