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Discipline Education Series: Previous Discipline

Mar 08, 2017
Discipline Education Series: Previous Discipline image

Previous Discipline  

This is a typical scenario. In this case, it was a high school teacher with several years of experience. He mistakenly received ballots for the student body president. The ballots were to go to a different teacher who had students in the class during second hour. Nevertheless, the grievant filled them out (the total number is disputed) and turned them in. Because they were written in the same ink and with the same check-mark, the principal asked the grievant about it. The grievant admitted to filling some out and voting for his stepson. A new election was held, where the same winners won again.

Management discharged him for unprofessional conduct. This was a penalty case. The facts were really not in dispute. The union argued that discharge was too harsh.

The union’s argument relied heavily on the discipline which the school issued 3 years ago to the grievant. In that case, the grievant had told the Athletic Director he was going to renew his commercial drivers’ license before taking the students to a track meet. In fact, he drove first and got the license the next day. Management issued a written reprimand.

Now, 3 years later, the union argued that discharge was disproportionate, given that the earlier offense merited only a reprimand.

At a recent conference, a panel of 5 senior labor arbitrators considered that argument. Here is a summary of their reaction.

  1. It’s not that unusual for a school to issue written reprimands (instead of suspensions), when employers in other settings would issue a suspension. This is the second instance of dishonesty and that’s why I uphold the discharge.
  2. I am surprised the school did not discharge him on the first offense, because that is more serious.  In both of these cases, there wasn’t a rule, but you don’t need a rule. I don’t think this teacher gets it. He is a role model. He doesn’t show remorse and as a teacher, he displays a bad attitude along with the misconduct.
  3. I agree with my colleagues that he did a stupid thing.  Maybe he was trying to curry favor with his stepson or impress his wife. The previous offense was 3 years ago, and that’s a long time. I feel it’s a little harsh to discharge him for doing something that is just foolish. I would reinstate without back pay and that loss of income is a serious enough penalty. I think he can be rehabilitated and he won’t do anything foolish like this again.
  4. It’s dishonesty in both offenses. It’s a terrible argument for the union to argue there is no applicable rule.  Teachers should not be this dishonest.

Arb. #5You have to consider the industry. You don’t want someone up there who is lying. There is also a lot of time between discharge and the hearing, and he still doesn’t show any remorse. So, that’s why I can’t go down the same road that Arb. #3 does. As to the license, he kind of showed his character. And now, without showing any remorse, he looks like a teacher who doesn’t get how serious this is.