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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

School Was Right to Fire Teacher for Bonus Points

(CN) - An Arkansas teacher was properly fired for buying herself a microwave oven, a DVD player and a pair of 27-inch televisions with Scholastic Book Club points accrued partly with school and student money, a state appeals court ruled.

Fan Timpani worked for the Lakeside School District for 20 years, most recently as a sixth-grade teacher.

Over the years, Timpani bought items through the Scholastic Book Club. Though the account was in her name, Timpani made purchases using school funds, money from students and other teachers, and her own money. The book club awards bonus points to members, in part, based on the dollar amount of each order they place.

Timpani traded the points in 2007 for a microwave oven, a DVD player and a pair of 27-inch televisions, which attracted administrative attention upon delivery to the school.

When Principal Jamie Preston asked Timpani about the instructional purpose of her order, the teacher replied that the items were for her personal use because she earned them with personal bonus points.

Preston told Timpani to cancel the order because the points were accrued partly with students and school money. When Timpani refused and insisted that the points belonged to her, Preston said the superintendent had already decided that the points were not hers personally, to which Timpani allegedly replied, "He is full of crap."

A teacher who was nearby later testified that Timpani turned toward her and said, "This school sucks."

Superintendent Shawn Cook recommended that Timpani be fired for these actions, as well as the allegedly "rude, argumentative" tone she used with him and Preston during a subsequent meeting about the incident.

Timpani filed suit under the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act after the school board fired her. The trial court ruled in the school board's favor, and the Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed on Nov. 2.

"Appellant's argument that the school district was required to include a written policy about such a minor topic as the bonus points in its personnel manual is not persuasive," Judge Cliff Hoofman wrote for a three-member panel.

"Appellant ultimately admitted that she used bad language when Ms. Preston first confronted her and that she had been sarcastic in the meeting with the superintendent," the 16-page decision states.

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