Quick! Pop quiz! Your high school student is sick. Would you want your kid’s teacher driving him to the emergency room and footing the bill?
My immediate instinct is to say yes because I’d want my kid to receive help as quickly as possible. But then, when I step back and ponder different variables I wonder that maybe a Tennessee teacher made the wrong call even if she did have the best of intentions.
As reported on The Huffington Post, Jennifer Mitts, who has been at Red Bank High School for 14 years, says she lost her job because of those good intentions. Mitts says she was forced to resign after taking the student to the emergency room and footing the bill. Upon learning of her actions, Mitts told WTVC-TV that school officials “dictated to (me) what (I) should write in the resignation letter, including forcing (me) to waive (my) right to a hearing.”
That’s not what the school says, though. Stacey Stewart, assistant superintendent of human resources for the district tells WDEF-TV that Mitts resigned voluntarily and was never forced to waive her rights. Stewart also notes Mitts took a student to the emergency room last year and had been warned not to take students in her car from campus.
“It’s a liability issue. It’s an issue of insubordination after doing something you were officially warned not to do and doing it again. It’s an issue of neglect of duty because the classroom was left unattended. There’s several issues,” Stewart said.
The student who Mitts drove to the doctor last year sees it differently, leaving a comment on a petition in support of Mitts that has over 2,200 signatures:
“I was the student that she took to the er [emergency room] last year. I had a temp of 105, pneumonia, a kidney infection && a bladder infection. I was also 7 months pregnant. Ms. Mitts saved my baby boys life as well as mine! And she did it out of the kindness of her heart, NOT because I asked [all sic],” reads the comment.
The petition reads in part:
Please sign this petition and join others in asking Principal Justin Robertson of Red Bank High School in Tennessee to give Miss Mitts her job back, pay her salary for the time she was unemployed, publicly apologize to her, and get extra insurance so that teachers like Miss Mitts are protected when they go the extra mile to help students in need.
It notes that while Mitts previously got in trouble for taking an ill student to a doctor (with permission from the student’s parents), she thought this time was different because the student was 20-years-old and a legal adult. As Mitts told WDEF, that student is from another country and started school late.
“There are teachers who have come to me privately who said wow, I really can’t believe what’s happening to you but I can’t sign your petition because if they see my name on there I’m next,” Mitts tells the local station.
I have to say, I believe Mitts was forced to resign. I also think she’s probably a great teacher who does go the extra mile to help her students. But leaving school grounds with a student — when it isn’t a life-threatening situation — is not okay. What if the teacher and the student got in a crash and the student was seriously injured? Does that open the school up to a liability lawsuit from the kid’s parents? Or what if other teachers with bad intentions decide to start tooling around town with students in the car?
So, while I commend Mitts for being a caring teacher, girlfriend’s gotta know when to draw the line. Get the kid to the school nurse, get his parents on the horn, and then step back. Unless he’s bleeding profusely, a speedy trip to the hospital courtesy of a teacher just isn’t necessary and sets a bad precedent.
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