On appeal from the Commissioner of Education, Docket No. 145-5/08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Fasciale.
Appellant, Heather Hudson (Hudson), formerly a non-tenured middle school teacher in the Mount Olive Township School District (District), appeals from the final decision of the Commissioner of Education (Commissioner) dismissing her appeal on jurisdictional grounds. The Commissioner concluded that she lacked jurisdiction to consider the matter because it concerned a contractual dispute between Hudson and the District rather than an interpretation of school law. We affirm.
Hudson admittedly disciplined a student by taping and wrapping a scarf around the student while the student was sitting on a chair. After an investigation, the District suspended her teaching duties and shortly thereafter sent a letter to her advising that it had decided to terminate her employment mid-year for cause. The letter listed the following reasons for her termination:
Unbecoming conduct in taping a student to a chair -- first using duct tape - then a scarf.
Unprofessional conduct in comporting [her]self inappropriately in front of students.
Not following [the] principal's directions in the handling of these instances.
Poor judgment in the use of "hip-hop" lingo and language that could result in students feeling uncomfortable in [the] classroom.
Inability to grasp the seriousness of these events and their inappropriateness.
A copy of this letter was also sent to the State Board of Examiners (Board).
The District also reported Hudson's conduct to the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division), and the Division launched an investigation into the matter through its Institutional Abuse Investigation Unit (IAIU). In an April 9, 2008 report, the IAIU found:
[T]he information gathered indicates that Ms. Hudson placed a piece of masking tape on [the student] and placed her scarf around him in response to this student's disruptive behavior and his failure to heed directives to stop. Ms. Hudson's actions were ostensibly taken in jest, did not confine [the student] in any way, and caused no injury to the child, who simply removed the tape and scarf; however, her actions were inappropriate. Ms. Hudson's ...