In a 4-2 vote after an open four-hour hearing, the Greene County Tech school board voted to terminate one of its teacher.
According to district superintendent Gene Weeks, the board upheld the administration’s decision to terminate Sarah Hudson, who had been employed as a kindergarten teacher at Greene County Tech Primary School.
“She’d requested an open hearing [to consider the administration’s decision] during a called board meeting,” Weeks said. “Her attorney [Zach Morrison] presented her case, and the district presented its case.”
In a written statement on Wednesday, Weeks outlined the reasoning behind the recommendation for Hudson’s termination as follows:
On or about March 9, 2021, Hudson wrapped tape around the thighs of two students and taped them to their desks.
She admitted to her supervisor that she placed tape on the sides of two students’ legs and taped them to their chairs.
Hudson admitted to telling students that if they could not stay seated, she would tape them down.
Parents have lost confidence in her ability to educate students in a safe environment.
Hudson failed conscientiously to execute her responsibilities to promote the health, safety, and welfare of students under her care in violation of district policies.
Hudson’s conduct contradicts and materially interferes with her continued employment as a teacher.
Hudson’s conduct reflects negatively upon the school district’s integrity and its ability to protect and nurture its students.
The hearing took place during a special board meeting called for 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Hudson had been accused of Scotch-taping two of her kindergarten students to their desks for a brief period of time.
Hudson’s attorney, Zachary Morrison, expressed satisfaction with the fact Hudson had gotten a fair hearing.
“The board gave us fair consideration,” he said. “But this is the first time [Hudson] has gotten a chance to tell her story, and we got a fair opportunity to tell it. So we respect the decision although we disagree with it.”
Along those lines, Morrison observed what he considered irregularities in the conduct of the investigation.
“The [Primary school] principal interviewed the two students together,” he said. “They should have been interviewed separately. And then they interviewed all the other students – together – so the whole choir was all singing the same tune.”
Morrison also said the students had said the paraprofessional assigned to the class had witnessed the entire incident.
“But she wasn’t even at work that day,” he said. Morrison also said the investigation by the Crimes Against Children Division (CACD) of the Arkansas State Police had similarly included the paraprofessional. He reiterated the paraprofessional was not at work on the day in question.
Morrison added that neither of the two students who had made the allegations were present at the hearing, nor were their parents.
“I feel it was a rush to judgement,” Morrison said, “for an event that was not adequately investigated.”
Rebecca Worsham, attorney for the school district, said that as a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse and neglect, the district was required to look into such allegations. “The paraprofessional was reported to be there,” she said, “so we had to report that [to CACD].”
Worsham said the paraprofessional had written a statement for CACD relating she was not actually present that day, and therefore could not have witnessed any events as alleged by the students.
In any case, she added, a school district lacks many of the tools available to criminal investigators. “We don’t have subpoena power,” she said. “And I believe it would be a deterrent [to reporting such incidents] if people knew they had to testify.”
Along those lines, Worsham said, hearsay – prohibited in a criminal proceeding – is allowed in such administrative proceedings. “Besides,” she said, “Hudson said that if she had been a parent [of one of the students in question], ‘I’d fire me.’”
Morrison noted, however, that Hudson had described the tape incident as a “playful joke” that had “gotten totally blown out of proportion.”
He added, and Worsham acknowledged, that the possibility for Hudson to appeal the board’s decision to the Greene County Circuit Court exists.
“We have 75 days in which to do so,” he said. “And its’s under active consideration.”