« Environment - "Asian carp found in lake near Lake Michigan - 53 inches, 82 pounds" | Main | Ind. Courts - Report on local bar survey of St. Joseph Superior Court judges »

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ind. Courts - COA holds oral argument at Franklin College

And Lesley Weidenbener, executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students, was there and filed a long story, including a photo of Judges Baker and Brown. Judge Bradford was the third panel member. Some quotes:

An administrative law judge overstepped her boundaries by suspending an educator’s license on the grounds that the woman is unfit to teach, an attorney told the Indiana Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

Instead, the Department of Education’s administrative judge needed to have determined that Patricia Terkosky – who was a special needs teacher at an elementary school – either acted immorally or committed misconduct for actions taken against her students, said her attorney, Eric Hylton.

Those are two of the terms used in the state law that permits revocations and suspensions, he said. The administrative judge “used the wrong standard,” Hylton said. “She used unfit to teach, which is not” part of Indiana law.

But Deputy Attorney General Kyle Hunter said that the totality of Terkosky’s actions led the administrative judge to order the suspension. The teacher is accused of hitting two special needs students, grabbing one so hard she left a bruise and putting a cover over one’s head, which led to her firing from the Greene-Sullivan Special Education Cooperative where she taught for 23 years.

“She showed a level of immorality that fits under the definition in Indiana law,” Hunter said. * * *

At issue in part is whether the administrative law judge appropriately used California case law to determine that Terkosky’s actions made her unfit to teach. That out-of-state case dealt specifically with definitions of immorality, something that has not been addressed by Indiana cases in situations involving license revocations.

However, in a different context, an Indiana appeals court found that an educator’s conduct “is immoral if it is offensive to the morals of the community has a negative impact on the teacher’s students,” according to court documents.

Appellate Judge Cale Bradford said in this case, the administrative law judge made no such specific finding of immorality. Bradford asked the attorneys if the appeals court could simply send the case back to the Department of Education where an administrative law judge could make that determination. Hunter, the attorney for the state, said yes.

But Hylton, the attorney for the teacher, said that would be inappropriate and would invite the administrative judge to try to “put magic words in there” so that the decision would withstand appellate scrutiny.

Hylton asked the judges to set aside the two-year license suspension – even though Terkosky already has served it – to clear her name and enable her to find a new job.

“There’s still harm that can be undone,” Hylton said. The suspension will “hang on her the rest of her life.”

Hylton also argued that the administrative law judge did not have the authority to yank Terkosky’s license for two years because the state superintendent of public instruction had only requested it be revoked, not suspended.

But Hunter said superintendent is only recommending specific action and the administrative judge can choose the best option.

The oral argument was in the case of Patricia Terkosky vs. Indiana Department of Education.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 18, 2013 09:00 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts