BURLEY • A formal complaint regarding a Declo teacher’s treatment of students who failed reading goals has been filed with an Idaho commission on educators’ professional standards and ethics.
The Idaho State Department of Education’s Professional Standards Commission examines complaints against certified teachers and has the power to suspend or revoke teaching licenses.
Cassia County School District Superintendent Galen Smyer said Monday his district filed the complaint after fourth-grade teacher Summer Larsen allowed students to scribble with permanent marker on the faces of classmates who failed to meet reading goals.
“I’m really limited on what I can say because it’s a personnel issue,” Smyer said. “The investigation on this is also ongoing in the district.”
Smyer declined to name the teacher involved last week, citing personnel reasons, but parents of the students named Larsen.
Larsen did not return calls Monday from the Times-News.
Smyer said Larsen is still employed with the district, but would not confirm whether she was placed on administrative leave — again citing personnel matters.
On Nov. 5, Larsen allowed her students to determine an incentive for an Accelerated Reading goal. The incentive the class chose was to allow students who made the goal to mark on the faces of the students who did not meet the benchmark. The students who did not meet the goal could choose to forgo recess until the goal was obtained or allow classmates to scribble on their faces. Nine students failed to meet the goal and six of those chose to have their faces marked.
The activity occurred in the morning and students were forced to wear the markings for the rest of the day, including lunch and recess.
Melissa McGrath, ISDE spokeswoman, said the Professional Standards Commission’s 19 members are appointed by the State Board of Education to investigate complaints against teachers certified in the state.
McGrath said the commission meets five to six times a year.
“They investigate complaints and then take any necessary action if they find an individual has violated state ethics code,” she said.
McGrath said action can include suspension or revocation of a license.
“It’s a long process,” she said.
McGrath said once the commission makes a decision in a case, the information becomes public record.
Smyer said his district’s school board will be kept apprised of the investigation.
The board next meets at 7 p.m., Nov. 27. Smyer said Monday that the complaint will not be on the agenda.
“Even if it was discussed it would be a personnel issue and held in executive session (behind closed doors),” Smyer said.
The incident drew national attention and prompted an online petition to school board members to terminate Larsen’s employment. On Monday, there were 10 supporters. Eight of the names appeared publically on the website and all were from out of state.