A math teacher in California is back in the classroom after a plea deal in which he pled guilty to one count of misdemeanor battery. Thomas Britain is a math teacher in the Corona-Norco Unified School District, and was accused of inappropriately touching a student in 2012.
Readers of this blog know that we rarely write about teacher/student sexual or inappropriate contact events and/or lawsuits. The traditional press covers them and they happen too frequently, all across the US. This isn’t about the event between a 12 year old and her teacher. It is about the legal and bureaucratic system that allowed the teacher back in the classroom.
The student, a 12 year-old who was a student in Britain’s class, alleged that he had slapped her backside one day as she bent to retrieve her cell phone from the floor. No other students were present at the time, although the student alleged that her friend witnessed the incident from the hallway.
In the wake of the September 2012 allegations, the school district placed Britain on administrative leave. His employment status remained on leave until recently as a result of a bargain Britain struck with prosecutors. The plea deal stipulated that Britain must plead guilty to the misdemeanor battery count in exchange for having two counts of annoying a child, also a misdemeanor, dismissed.
The counts of annoying a child were likely the more serious allegations, and Britain’s attorney states that a lack of evidence led to the dismissal of these charges. Nonetheless, the various allegations and the plea deal will probably be a continuing headache for Britain and the school district.
The father of the 12 year-old accuser is outraged that Britain is again being allowed to teach in the classroom even though it’s in a different school. However, the district insists that Britain has been cleared of charges and his teaching credentials have been reinstated, making him fully qualified for employment.
Sadly, everyone lost in this one. There will likely be a lawsuit filed. Check back for updates.
If you are a California school administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, or school employment law, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district legal issue.