Former Washington Elementary School Principal Terry Eisenbarth’s name was cleared Friday, when the state Board of Educational Examiners accepted a judge’s dismissal of ethics and abuse complaints against him.
That should close the books on an acrimonious chapter in the Mount Vernon School District, where opinions still are divided about Eisenbarth’s controversial birthday celebrations.
Eisenbarth resigned from his post a year ago, when tempers still were boiling hot.
Some will argue the ruling in his favor proves the case never should have been brought to the board’s attention in the first place.
But the fact is, the system worked exactly as it should have. And now that Iowa law requires districts to report more allegations of misconduct to state licensers, let’s hope that letting investigators and examiners do their jobs will stop seeming so heavy-handed and bizarre.
Two families filed complaints with the Board of Educational Examiners last year after they learned that Eisenbarth had been using a padded hockey stick to swat students on the backside on their birthdays. It was all in fun, Eisenbarth said, but the board found cause enough to investigate those claims.
After hearing the evidence, an administrative law judge disagreed that Eisenbarth’s swats were abusive, or that he failed to conduct himself professionally or protect student health and safety.
The judge dismissed the charges, which means, barring any appeal, Eisenbarth can keep his teaching license and move on with a clear conscience and a clean slate.
Some parents still will disagree that the “whaps” were appropriate, but the ruling clearly found Eisenbarth’s behavior did not violate professional standards.
That will prompt others to say the whole process was just about dragging Eisenbarth through the mud. They’re wrong.
Imagine trying to apply that same argument to a doctor accused of malpractice, an attorney accused of incompetence, a therapist accused of unethical behavior. We wouldn’t stand for it.
It’s only right that our trusted public school employees are held to the same standard, rather than letting allegations fester while we close our eyes and wait for them to go away.
Only when due process is followed can parents rest assured educators will be held accountable for their unethical or abusive actions, and rest easy when the facts show there were none.
And that’s a whole lot better for everyone than trying to sweep the whole unpleasant business under the rug.
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