Carol Burton said her attorney was told by a school-district lawyer that she will receive a termination letter Friday. It’s related to a choir trip to New Orleans in March.
A choir teacher at Garfield High School has been told she will be fired because of what happened on a field trip to New Orleans in March during which two teenage girls allegedly were groped by a male classmate.
Carol Burton, who has been at Garfield for 14 years, said she heard the news from her attorney, who reportedly was told by a school-district lawyer that Burton would receive a termination letter Friday.
But a district spokeswoman said Thursday that Superintendent Larry Nyland hasn’t reached a final decision.
“I know that Larry was close to a decision, but in terms of a Friday deadline, I haven’t heard anything in regards to that,” district spokeswoman Jacque Coe said.
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In June, an investigator hired by the district found that Burton “was the one ultimately responsible for enforcing the rules” on the field trip and failed to do so.
In particular, he said she violated the policy that prohibits male and female students from visiting each other’s hotel rooms at any time. He also faulted Burton for drinking alcohol on the trip, which is not allowed.
Burton has acknowledged that she did drink on the trip, and that she may have told students they could visit each others’ rooms during the day.
“I had two and half drinks in five days and those drinks were the most expensive drinks in my life — they’ve cost my career, apparently,” Burton said Thursday. “Those drinks seem to be worth more than all of the students who want me back, all of the parents who want me back, all of my staff who want me back, my principal who wants me back.”
Students and parents have held rallies on her behalf several times, with some showing up at school headquarters Thursday.
“The idea of firing the teacher over this is way above and beyond what needs to be done,” said parent Amy Barnett, who is co-president Friends of Garfield Singers and has a daughter who was on the New Orleans trip.
The investigator also faulted a school-district official for failing to inform Garfield educators that the student accused of groping — who was suspended from Garfield for the rest of the school year — had previously been expelled from another, private high school.
That official, Beryl Miller, also is under investigation. Coe said there has been no decision about her employment either.
Burton has suggested that she be disciplined, not fired. Jonathan Knapp, president of Seattle’s teachers union, agreed, saying he sees termination as an excessive response that reflects “a lack of progressive discipline.”
This is the third time in recent years that a Garfield excursion has come under scrutiny.
The district recently paid a $700,000 settlement to the family of a former student who alleged she was raped on a 2012 overnight trip. On another field trip this past fall, male and female students allegedly shared the same sleeping areas.