MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker wants a middle school teacher who viewed pornography on his classroom computer to lose his license.
Walker on Tuesday sent a letter to state Superintendent Tony Evers saying he should act quickly to begin license revocation proceedings against Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District teacher Andrew Harris.
The school board voted to fire Harris in 2010 after he and other teachers looked at sexually explicit images at school. But an arbitrator ruled in 2012 that Harris had been unfairly terminated and after the state Supreme Court refused to take up the case, Harris returned to the classroom Monday.
Neither Harris's attorney nor a spokesman for Evers immediately returned messages seeking reaction to Walker's letter.
Copyright 2014: Associated Press
UPDATED Tuesday, January 28, 2014 --- 12:27 p.m.
Governor Walker has sent a letter to the State Superintendent asking him to begin the process to revoke the license of Middleton teacher Andrew Harris.
Harris was fired from Glacier Creek Middle School in 2010 for viewing pornography at work. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently declined to take up an appeal of an arbitrator's ruling by the school district. So Harris returned to teach science at Kromrey Middle School.
Below is the text of the letter sent from Gov. Walker to State Superintendent Tony Evers:
Dear State Superintendent Evers:
Since taking office, I have worked to put in place reforms giving local school districts the tools they need to hire and fire teachers based on merit, performance, and professional conduct. With the passage of 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, schools now have the ability to move away from the old contracts, which prevented them from doing so.
The reforms support excellence in education because they ensure our students are educated by the best and brightest teachers. The reforms also protect students from teachers who may engage in immoral conduct or fall short of the expectations put forth by parents, the community, and school leaders. This is important not only to me, but also to parents and caretakers all throughout our state.
In 2010, the elected officials serving on the local school board overseeing the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District made the decision to terminate the employment of middle school teacher Andrew Harris, after an investigation revealed he repeatedly viewed pornographic material at school and on a school computer. Unfortunately, the union arbitration process ordered that he be allowed to return to the classroom, with back pay. The district has spent about $1 million on costs and legal fees in the case.
Reforms we put in place in 2011 Act 10 put the power back in the hands of local officials, including school boards, so they can make the decisions they feel best serve their students and their community. While the defense of Mr. Harris’s actions by the teacher’s union ultimately negated the desire of the Middleton-Cross Plains School Board to remove him from the classroom, it appears that his behavior meets the definition of “Immoral conduct” under Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 115.31(1)(c).
After hearing from concerned parents, I am asking you to act efficiently in your investigation into the actions of Mr. Harris and to initiate revocation proceedings. The arbitration process afforded to Mr. Harris failed the school district and the students. It has taken both a financial and emotional toll on the district. Cases, such as this one, are a good example of why our reforms are necessary.
Situations, such as these, prompted me to sign 2011 Act 84 giving the State Superintendent clear authority to take action. Act 84 allows the State Superintendent to revoke a license for “Immoral conduct,” which includes “the intentional use of an educational agency’s equipment to download, view, solicit, seek, display, or distribute pornographic material.”
I am confident that the overwhelming majority of teachers and educators across the state and in the Middleton-Cross Plains District are committed and dedicated to working hard every day for the benefit of our students, their families, and our state as a whole. Teachers who make decisions that contradict what is best for students shed a negative light on their colleagues and the district, and in some cases, put students at risk.
Parents and caretakers deserve to know they are sending children to schools where everyone on staff is committed to excellence. Thank you for your swift action on this matter and I look forward to your review and remedy.
A group of parents held signs in protest of Andrew Harris' return to the classroom, outside of Kromrey Middle School on Friday morning.
Middleton-Cross Plains school officials now say that students can transfer to a study hall, instead of taking Harris' class. They won't get credit for the science class. The district early on made it clear that students will not be allowed to transfer to another science class.
Another district staff member will be with Harris in the classroom for at least two weeks.
Harris returns to the classroom on Monday, Jan 27th.
A change of schools for the Middleton teacher, embroiled in controversy for the past several years in a pornography scandal. Andrew Harris will teach 7th grade science at Kromrey Middle School. He had been at Glacier Creek Middle School when he was fired for viewing and sharing pornography at work.
Some concerned parents have said they'll move their kids out of Harris' classroom, but Superintendant Don Johnson says transfers will not be allowed.
The Middleton school board came to a decision Monday night on how it plans to reinstate Andrew Harris--a middle school teacher who was fired for viewing pornography at work.
After meeting for 90 minutes behind closed doors, board president Ellen Lindgren said, "The district will comply with the arbitrator's orders. The board and the administration have developed a transition plan to facilitate Mr. Harris' reinstatement."
The board would not go into further detail except to say it will meet with the Middleton Education Association Tuesday to go over the reinstatement proposal.
The Middleton Cross Plains-Area teacher fired for looking at pornography while on the job could be back in the classroom by the end of the month.
This week the Wis. Supreme Court announced it would not hear the school district's case against Andrew Harris.
This appeal to the state's highest court was the district's last chance in what's been nearly four years of failed attempts to keep Harris away from students.
On a chilly January afternoon, news about Harris' possible return sends a different kind of chill down some parents' spines.
"I don't like that there is evidence of pornography that he was viewing in school while being around students," said Jennifer Valtierra. She's picking up her daughter at Glacier Creek, the middle school where Harris taught science, and was caught viewing inappropriate images.
"When she comes two years later into 8th grade and if he's there, I won't want her in his classroom," Valtierra said.
"We weren't surprised that the supreme court didn't see fit to take the case," said Harris' attorney, William Haus.
Haus, who represents the Middleton Education Association, says his client was unfairly disciplined compared to other faculty who engaged in similar behavior. An arbitrator ruled in favor of Harris and reduced his punishment to a 15-day suspension. That decision was later upheld by the circuit and appeals courts. Now the school board must decide how it will re-instate Harris.
"The ball is really in the district's court. I mean, Andy Harris can't just get into his car and go into work tomorrow," Haus said. "So he needs to wait until the district does whatever it's going to do."
In a statement Wednesday, the district expressed disappointment but says it will comply with the arbitrator's order that Harris must return to his former position or to one that's equivalent.
"Andy Harris wants to go back to work, he wants to resume his career," Haus said.
The district faces nearly $1 million in legal fees and back pay it owes Harris.
The school board will hold a special meeting on the issue this coming Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the District Administrative Center.