Farmington — The employee union representing some Consolidated School District employees is asking a state district court to order the school district to provide a hearing for a teacher fired from Shiprock High School.
The petition was filed Jan. 2 in the state's 11th District Court in Aztec by the National Education Association of New Mexico, the Central Consolidated Educational Association and April Baisan against CCSD and Superintendent Don Levinski.
Baisan was working as a science teacher at Shiprock High School on Oct. 30 when the school was placed on a lockdown so local law enforcement officials could conduct an unannounced drug sweep that lasted nearly 2 hours.
During the lockdown, Baisan prevented a student from using the restroom. The student couldn't hold it and urinated on herself in the class.
According to the petition, Baisan was required by school policies during a lockdown to deny permission for the student to use the restroom. She "made all reasonable efforts to contact school administrators in an effort to determine whether it was safe to grant the student permission to leave the classroom. Despite her best efforts, she was unable to contact any school administrator," according to the documents.
The school district asked Baisan to sign a letter of resignation on Nov. 1, and the terms of the letter offered her paid administrative leave from Nov. 4 to Nov. 29 in exchange "for a full and complete release of all rights," according to court documents.
The petition alleges Levinski emailed CCSD school board members on Nov. 6 stating his intention to discharge Baisan because of the incident, and his email did not mention the lockdown.
That same day, Baisan received a discharge notice and information that she was entitled to a hearing before the local school board or governing authority pursuant to state law.
On Nov. 8, Baisan notified Levinski that she was requesting the opportunity to speak before the school board concerning the termination.
The school board declined to hear the grievance and a discharge hearing. After an hour in executive session during a regular school board meeting on Nov. 19, the board decided that Levinski should handle the matter.
"Neither at that time nor at any other did CCSD grant Ms. Baisan's request for a board hearing at which to make a statement in response to the decision to terminate her," according to court documents.
Because the school district refused to grant a board hearing, Ewa Krakowska, director of the National Education Association of Northwest New Mexico, submitted a request for arbitration to the school district.
The school district's response stated Baisan had no right to request arbitration until after "a final decision regarding her discharge had been made at the hearing to be held by the superintendent," according to court documents.
That hearing was scheduled for Jan. 16, according to the petition, but it was not before the school board or governing authority as required by the New Mexico School Personnel Act.
CCSD spokesman James Preminger declined to comment on the case.
"We have not received or seen a copy of Ms. Baisan's court filing so we do not know what it is," he said. "Regardless, we would not comment on it."
Krakowska said the employee union notified CCSD after filing the petition and told the district to contact their attorney.
Preminger said the hearing set for Jan. 16 did happen, and Baisan was not present. Preminger said the district will not discuss the outcome of the hearing because it concerns a personnel matter.
After the Nov. 19 school board meeting, the union issued a press release calling for the district to develop a policy and administrative guidance for emergency situations, including lockdowns.
"The district is in the process of reviewing all emergency response policies," Preminger said on Tuesday, adding that a review is not a result of the incident but an annual requirement by the state.
Krakowska declined to comment further about the petition but reiterated that the school district violated the state's School Personnel Act by denying Baisan's request for a discharge hearing before the school board.
Krakowska also questioned how Levinski can oversee the appeal process on Baisan's termination when he was the one who decided to fire her.
"It doesn't make sense," Krakowska said.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.