The Beaufort County Circuit Court has upheld a decision by the Beaufort County school board to dismiss a Hilton Head Island gym teacher in 2014.
John Alden Bauer III has not worked at Hilton Head Island Elementary School since February 2014, when he was placed on administrative leave with pay after leaving a child at the Island Recreation Center after a swimming class, the lawsuit states.
The court heard Bauer and the district’s arguments March 4 and ruled April 25 to reaffirm Bauer’s June 2014 firing and his formal dismissal one year ago Monday after an evidentiary hearing.
An employee of the Rec Center ultimately returned the child to Hilton Head Elementary, and when then-assistant principal Donald Clendaniel contacted Bauer about the incident, the teacher simply responded, “Thanks. It was pouring down raining, and we were in a rush to get back,” and later said the issue was “ridiculous” and “unnecessary,” the lawsuit states.
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In an earlier incident, in 2013, Bauer left a fourth-grader unattended outside the school’s gym while he supervised the rest of a class inside, and district officials said he was “argumentative, agitated and uncooperative” when confronted about the mistake, according to the lawsuit.
Bauer challenged his firing in court in late May 2015, arguing the board made several mistakes at his hearing earlier that month, and neglected to offer him a hearing earlier, ahead of his June 2014 notice of dismissal.
Judge Marvin Dukes III, however, sided with the district.
In his order, he stated that the district complied with the state’s requirements for due process, both that the hearing was conducted within an appropriate amount of time and that the grounds for termination were properly given to Bauer.
“The Court concludes that there is more than substantial evidence in the record supporting the Board’s findings and it’s decision to terminate Bauer’s employment because, by his conduct, Bauer manifested an evident unfitness for teaching,” Dukes concludes.
No teacher may be dismissed unless he or she receives a written notice specifying the cause of dismissal and offering an opportunity for a hearing before the school board. If the teacher does not request a hearing within 15 days, the board would take action and enter an order. If the teacher does request a hearing, the board would schedule one 10 to 15 days later, though the time frame is often extended by both parties.
Afterward, the board would have 10 days to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to dismiss the teacher, either affirming or withdrawing the notice of dismissal.
Bauer had worked for Hilton Head Elementary since 2002.
School officials were reportedly concerned with Bauer’s response to the Rec Center incident, of which he told human resources chief Alice Walton, “I don’t really see the big deal in all of this. The student got back to the building. He wasn’t hurt. I really don’t see why you are blowing this out of proportion,” according to the suit.
Other parents also complained that their children were exposed to naked men while in the Rec Center’s locker room, and one told school officials that Bauer was “very flippant” about the issue, according to Clendaniel’s original statement on the February 2014 incident, filed in the suit.
Later, while on paid leave, he failed to show up for a meeting with superintendent Jeff Moss, a move Moss warned would be considered insubordination.
Bauer had asked Moss to change the date of the meeting so a specific lawyer could attend, but the superintendent refused, the suit states.
Reached Monday, Bauer said he is representing himself and will continue fighting the board’s decision by filing an appeal with the S.C. Court of Appeals.
- School board upholds firing of ex-Bluffton principal, November 4, 2013
- Former H.E. McCracken principal goes to court to appeal his termination, October 20, 2014
- School district, former Bluffton principal to argue appeal in court next month, March 10, 2016