UPDATED Monday, October 28, 2013 ----7:28 a.m.
MIDDLETON, Wis. (AP) -- The Middleton-Cross Plains School Board is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take its case against a teacher accused of viewing pornography at work.
The school district wants the high court to overturn an arbitrator's decision to give the give the middle school science teacher his job back and reduce the suspensions given two other teachers.
The three were part of a grievance the teachers union filed on behalf of seven school district employees accused of viewing or sharing pornography or sexually inappropriate images, jokes or videos.
The State Journal says Glacier Creek Middle School teacher Andrew Harris was fired while the rest received suspensions or reprimands. The district maintains the content viewed by Harris was more inappropriate than the material seen by others.
The case has cost the district about $600,000 in legal fees so far.
Copyright 2013: Associated Press
UPDATED Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 --- 7:30 p.m.
Posted by: Madeline Anderson
The board of education for the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District continues to fight an appellate court's decision to reinstate a middle school teacher accused of viewing porn at work.
While teaching seventh grade science at Glacier Creek, the school district says Andrew Harris received, viewed and showed pornographic images on the job.
"It's definitely hard core pornography," said Ellen Lindgren, the president of the school board. "And very offensive and a legitimate concern for our parents that have seen someone that would view this pornography and then have students streaming into the room immediately afterwards."
The school board terminated Harris because of his behavior back in May of 2010. The Middleton Education Association filed a grievance challenging the punishment, and an arbitrator largely ruled in favor of the MEA, reducing Harris' termination to a 15-day suspension on the grounds other faculty who were accused of similar conduct in unrelated instances weren't treated as harshly.
Since then, the board has unsuccessfully appealed the decision to put Harris back in the classroom. Now, in a unanimous vote Monday night, Lindgren says the district hopes to take the case to the State Supreme Court.
"I don't think we had a choice," Lindgren said. "We would have had great upheaval at whatever school he was in."
Despite orders to reinstate Harris, district and union came to an agreement that would ultimately keep him away from students. Beginning in August 2013, Harris is on paid leave, receiving $43,000 dollars a year--half of his salary plus benefits.
"I've heard from approximately 25 people," said Perry Hibner, the communications director for MCPASD. "Only one has come out and said, would you please stop this, money is an issue."
Harris' lawyer says he's not surprised the district is appealing for a second time.
"In this case, the district is willing to spend unlimited resources to vindicate a view that has clearly been rejected by every single neutral that has heard the case," said William Haus, the attorney for the MEA.
"It has been a costly process, but I think Dr. Johnson said it accurately, the safety of our kids is priceless," Lindgren said.
UPDATED Monday, March 12, 2012 --- 10:35 p.m.
The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District met Monday night regarding this case.
After a closed session meeting the board decided by an 8 to 1 vote to appeal the independent arbitrator's ruling to reinstate Andrew Harris.
The appeal process can take up to six to nine months, before a final decision is made.
UPDATED Monday, March 5, 2012 --- 10:47 p.m.
The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District met Monday night regarding this case.
They discussed their options regarding Andrew Harris, but did not make a decision.
They plan to talk about the issue again at a meeting scheduled for next Monday.
UPDATED Thursday March 1, 2012 --- 5:35 p.m.
Posted By: Barclay Pollak
In a near 60 page document an independent arbitrator outlines the relationship between Andy Harris and three of his female colleagues. The arbitrator says all parties involved used adult humor and spoke of adult topics on occasion while at work.
She also says that Mr. Harris should not have been fired. He should have been punished to the tune of a 15 day suspension with out pay.
Willie Haus is the Middleton Education Association's lawyer. He believes that his client may have been dealt with more harshly than others named in the report because of his ties to the union. Haus says just days before the allegations surfaced his client sent out a letter to teachers that was critical of the district and its handling of their latest round of contract negotiations.
Haus says, " Mr. Harris was an advocate on the union side he sat at the negotiation table. He wrote a letter that they didn't like. "
Haus is concerned this saga may not be over even with this latest ruling. Haus says part of his concern stems from an e-mail sent in May of 2010 from the district to someone inquiring about Harris' former position. The e-mail says, " It is not the district's intent to return Andy to the classroom at any point or for any reason."
" They've been spending more time talking about appeals and what their options are than talking about how they're going to implement the award," says Haus.
NBC15 did contact the Middleton-Cross Plains School district for a comment today. They refused our request. But the issue will be discussed at a Board of Education meeting Monday.
We also contacted Mr. Harris for a comment. He has not gotten back to us.
UPDATED Wednesday, February 29, 2012 --- 9:50 p.m.
The attorney representing the Middleton teacher's union in this case says he is upset with the Middleton-Cross Plain's statement released earlier today. Attorney Willie Haus says the statement's suggestion that the ruling sends the message that it's okay for staff to view pornography at school is unfair and false. Haus says the arbitrator's ruling clearly indicates Harris's actions were subject to discipline, but that the district went too far by firing Harris. Haus also says Harris was targeted by district officials because he was involved in the teachers' union, and that other staff who committed similar violations had less severe punishment.
UPDATED Wednesday, February 29, 2012 --- 10:45 a.m.
Press Release from the Middleton-Cross Plains School District:
Arbitrator Largely Rules Against
Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District
The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District learned on Tuesday that an arbitrator ruled largely in favor of the Middleton Education Association in its grievance.
Andrew Harris was a science teacher at Glacier Creek Middle School in Cross Plains when he was placed on administrative leave in December 2009 after the school district learned he received 23 e-mails containing pornography and other adult content. He was placed on unpaid leave a month later. He was formally dismissed by the Board of Education on May 3, 2010.
Five other teachers received unpaid suspensions, one substitute teacher was dismissed and a veteran administrator resigned following a district-wide investigation.
Testimony in the case began in October 2010 and ended in May 2011. Since then, briefs and counter-briefs have been filed with the arbitrator.
The Board of Education has scheduled a meeting on Monday, March 5 at 6:30 p.m. to consider options moving forward.
The following is a statement from Superintendent Don Johnson and the Board of Education regarding Tuesday’s ruling from arbitrator Karen Mawhinney:
“The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District is disappointed by the ruling from the arbitrator. This ruling completely minimizes conduct that cannot be tolerated: it sends the message that it is acceptable for employees to view pornography at school, during the student-school day, on school equipment. It also flies in the face of the need to provide a professional work environment and a safe place to educate our children.
“The Board of Education will review the ruling and consider its options.”
The Board and district administrators will have no further comment until after Monday’s special Board meeting.
UPDATED Saturday, April 17, 2010 --- 8:30 a.m.
MIDDLETON, Wis. (AP) — An investigation into the viewing of adult content on the Middleton-Cross Plains School District's e-mail system has led to the suspensions of five staff members.
The Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports Friday that they served up to 12 days of unpaid suspensions. The district released the specific violations and punishments in a report on Friday.
The local teachers union is challenging the suspensions, although a grievance has been denied by the district. The union can seek arbitration, however.
Union lawyer Willie Haus says the district's policies on the matter aren't clear and the penalties imposed don't make sense.
The report says three other staff members also shared adult images or jokes. One person retired and two others received letters of reprimand.
Wisconsin State Journal
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
UPDATED Wednesday, April 7, 2010 --- 4:40 p.m.
According to the Middleton Times-Tribune, the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District has released a summary of its findings regarding a complaint made against a middle school teacher currently on unpaid administrative leave for alleged misuse of school technology.
According to the newspaper's online report, the 309-page report indicates that the teacher violated the district's Acceptable Use Policy, which prohibits "accessing or transmitting materials that are obscene or sexually explicit" using district email.
Posted Wednesday, February 3, 2010 --- 2:30 p.m.
Press Release from the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District:
There have been incidents involving adult content material being transferred via district email, which violates district policy regarding appropriate use of technology. As soon as administration became aware of this, swift and appropriate action was taken.
After receiving a complaint about one staff member, we began an investigation. As a result, a middle school staff member is on unpaid administrative leave while a full investigation is being completed. As a precautionary part of this process we are completing a thorough review of our entire email system.
During this review we discovered additional violations of district policy. There are seven high school staff members and one administrator that will receive some type of discipline. The administrator chose to retire; the others will receive disciplinary action based on the severity of the violation. In addition, one substitute teacher was dismissed. For legal and privacy reasons, we are unable to share more specific information at this time because this is an on-going personnel matter and investigation.
Our first concern was, and continues to be, the safety and well-being of our students. This investigation does not involve children in any manner. And, while we have uncovered district policy violations, there is no evidence of any illegal activity. We will continue our investigation