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Columbus Teachers Get Multiple "Last Chances"

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Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Michael Sauers / Flickr

"We'll give you one last chance," Ohio school district administrators sometimes tell teachers who have been accused of mistreating students multiple times.

A "last chance agreement" is a formal document in which the accused teacher basically promises to take certain steps to improve and to cease mistreating students. Any violation of the terms of the agreement is grounds for termination.

But sometimes teachers get several "last chances."

We reported last year about a Columbus teacher accused of assaulting and cursing at students. That teacher, Eric Brentlinger, signed two last chance agreements and violated both, but instead of firing him the school district assigned him to work in a textbook warehouse until he retired with full benefits.

Now the Columbus Dispatch reports on another teacher who received two last chances. Michael Lawson, a seventh-grade science teacher at Monroe Middle School, resigned shortly before the school board was set to vote last night on suspending him pending termination. Like Brentlinger, Lawson taught at Monroe.

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According to district documents, Lawson signed a last chance agreement in March after he had "inappropriate physical interactions with two students." He agreed that he could be fired "if, at any time while employed, he violated Board policy, district procedures or rules, or conducted himself in a manner unbecoming a teacher."

In November, a student opened a personal computer storage device given to her by Lawson and that device "contained images that were viewed by the student that are inappropriate for a school setting." Thus the termination proceedings.

But the Dispatch says that the 2011 last-chance agreement was actually Lawson's second:

Lawson signed the first one in 2008 after he was accused of using excessive force against a student and behaving unprofessionally while he was a teacher at Yorktown Middle School. It expired after two years without incident.

He also had been reprimanded in 2007 after he was accused of choking a student with the student’s hooded sweatshirt. His principal at the time said she didn’t think it was intentional.

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