A Leavenworth, Wash., high school teacher was properly fired for misconduct with one of her students, according to a decision released this week by the Washington Court of Appeals in Spokane.
Cascade High School art teacher Bonnie C. Powell denied allegations that she had a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student she regarded as a son, but court documents say she knew he consumed alcohol on a trip to Europe under her supervision.
Upholding a Chelan County Superior Court ruling, the appellate court rejected Powell’s contention that her dismissal was based on an improperly conducted hearing and that she wasn’t adequately represented in the hearing.
Powell, who is much older than the student, was suspended with pay in September 2001 after another teacher said she suspected Powell of misconduct.
Principal William Wadlington investigated, and was told by the student that Powell had sex with him on one occasion, fondled him on another and offered to share her bed on a third occasion.
The student also said Powell gave him alcohol during an April 2001 trip in which Powell took three students to Europe, according to court documents.
Powell countered that the student was a drug and alcohol abuser who shouldn’t be believed.
The student told Wadlington that Powell had sex with him during the European trip, and after the trip she fondled him when he spent the night at her house. The youth also said Powell offered to share her bed when they spent the night in the same hotel room during a trip to Philadelphia, according to court documents.
Powell reportedly had hired the student for odd jobs at her home in the summer of 2001 and asked him to accompany her to Philadelphia for a job interview. She needed a companion because she suffered from diabetes and was prone to hypoglycemic problems, the Court of Appeals stated.
The appellate decision says Powell was interviewed in Philadelphia for an overseas teaching position. She had offered to take the student with her if she got the job, so he could finish his education abroad, the court said.
A three-judge panel said a hearing officer who upheld Powell’s dismissal followed the correct procedures. The appellate judges also rejected Powell’s argument that she didn’t have effective legal counsel during the hearing.
There is no constitutional right to competent legal advice in hearings involving loss of a job rather than a professional license, the judges said.
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