FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, CHICKASAWBA
DISTRICT [NO. 47BCV-12-199] HONORABLE PAMELA B. HONEYCUTT,
W. Harris, for appellant.
Richard Glassman and James F. Horner Jr., for appellee.
F. VIRDEN, Judge.
Ann Struble appeals an order from the Mississippi County
Circuit Court upholding the Blytheville School District's
decision to terminate her contract under the Arkansas Teacher
Fair Dismissal Act (ATFDA) and granting summary judgment to
Blytheville School District. We find no error, and we affirm.
spring of 2012, Wesley Freemeyer, a second-grade teacher at
Blytheville Primary School, discovered a handwritten letter
in the homework folder of a female student in her classroom.
In the letter, the student stated that she wished she could
see her real mom, that her mother's father touched her
where she should not be touched, that she had been touched in
her "middle parts, " that her mom's dad was a
bad man, and that she had some very bad things in her life.
The note ended with the request "can you help me
please." Freemeyer gave the note to assistant principal
Dee Keiter, who was also present in the classroom. Keiter
mentioned the letter to Principal Struble, who admits that
she "scanned" the letter but did not read it at
that time, and all parties agree that Keiter was told to
"handle it." Keiter took the letter and escorted
the child back to the office where the child's
grandmother was waiting to pick her up because the child had
been suspended from school for fighting earlier in the day.
Keiter asked the grandmother about the letter, and Keiter
testified that the grandmother explained that the abuse had
occurred years before when the child was a toddler and that
the child had been removed from the abusive household. Later
that day, Struble and Keiter met in the vice principal's
office, where Struble read the letter and discussed its
contents with Keiter, and Keiter relayed to Struble that the
child's grandmother had confirmed that the child had been
abused. Struble told Keiter to file the letter in the school
nurse's file. Both Keiter and Struble were aware that no
one had called the child-abuse hotline, and they agreed that
there was "no reason to report abuse to the
weeks later, Rhonda Hodges, the school nurse, found the
letter on the counter in the medicine closet, a room that is
kept locked and to which only the nurse, the assistant
principal, and the principal had keys. Nurse Hodges read the
letter and became concerned. She spoke to a supervisor,
Freemeyer, and Keiter to ascertain if anyone had called the
Child-abuse hotline. When Hodges realized that no one had
reported the letter, she called the hotline herself.
Atwill, Blytheville School District's superintendent,
investigated the incident. On May 18, 2012, Atwill notified
Struble that she was immediately suspended with pay and that
he was recommending termination for her failure to report
suspected child abuse, because she had represented to
Freemeyer that she would call the hotline and did not do so,
and because she failed to maintain the chain of custody of
the child's letter.
18, 2012, the Blytheville School Board (School Board) held a
hearing on the matter. After hearing testimony from
Superintendent Atwill, Nurse Hodges, Freemeyer, and Assistant
Principal Keiter, the School Board found that the reasons set
forth by Atwill to terminate Struble's contract were
true. The School Board terminated Struble from her position
as principal and directed that she be rehired in a
non-administrative position as soon as a position for which
she was qualified became available.
appealed the School Board's decision to the circuit
court. The School Board filed a motion for summary judgment,
which the circuit court granted. The circuit court found that
the School Board was entitled to summary judgment as a matter
of law, as there was just and reasonable cause for
Struble's termination based on her violation of the
Mandated Reporter Statute, her failure to maintain a proper
chain of custody of the letter, and her delegation of duty as
a mandated reporter.
filed a timely notice of appeal.