A complaint was filed against a teacher with the State Board for Educator Certification, alleging that the teacher’s certification was subject to sanctions for failing to properly account for a student after a field trip. The teacher requested a hearing regarding the attempt to impose sanctions against her.
At the hearing, the evidence showed that the teacher’s first grade class went on a field trip to a park. The park was close to the school, so the students walked there and back with teachers and parent-chaperones as escorts. The teacher had 16 students in her class but was unable to walk to the park with them because she had a sprained ankle. Instead, she drove and another teacher escorted her students on the walk.
On the day of the field trip, the teacher took attendance in the morning and confirmed that all 16 students were present. She then turned over her students to the other teacher and drove to the park. During the field trip, she took attendance on multiple occasions, including when the students arrived at the park, before and after they ate lunch and as they moved between activities. Two of her students were picked up early from the park by their parents. When the students lined up at the park to prepare to walk back to school, the teacher took attendance and confirmed there were 14 students present. As the students were preparing to leave the park, one student asked if he could go to the bathroom to change because his clothes were wet from water activities. The teacher told the student that he needed to wait until he got back to school. She told another teacher that the student had asked to change clothes and that she had said no. She then turned her students over to the other teacher and drove back to school. At some point after that, the student who had asked to change his clothes left the group and went to the park bathroom. None of the teachers or parent-chaperones noticed he was no longer with the group.
The students and teachers returned to campus and assembled in groups in the hallway based on how they were getting home. The student who had become separated from the group normally attended the after-school care program. The teacher was assigned to stand with the after-care students until the after-care program staff collected them. After handing off those students to the program, she went to help with the car-rider line. She did not take attendance for her class when they returned to the campus from the field trip and did not realize that the student had not returned to school with the other students. She also did not notice that he was not in the after-care program line. Nobody realized that the student was missing until his mother arrived to pick him up. He was found in the park approximately 40 minutes later and was unharmed. The teacher admitted that she had not taken attendance upon their return to campus and said she had been “lax” and “dropped the ball.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, the administrative law judge found that the teacher’s failure to take attendance after the field trip was reckless and that, although she did not create a danger to the student, she extended the duration of the potential harm because she increased the period of time that no adult was aware that the student was missing. This recklessness violated the Educator’s Code of Ethics and justified the imposition of a non-inscribed reprimand on the teacher’s certification. After considering the recommendation of the administrative law judge, the State Board of Educator Certification agreed and imposed a non-inscribed reprimand on the teacher’s certification.
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