WINFIELD –- A Putnam County teacher is demanding before any discipline is imposed on her the board of education produce a copy of an audio tape of her allegedly berating her students.
Carolyn Rogers, a kindergarten teacher at Buffalo Elementary, filed a writ of mandamus and petition for injunctive relief against both the Putnam Board of Education and Harold Hatfield, the superintendent of schools.
In her petition, Rogers seeks a court order compelling the Board and Hatfield to turn over an audio tape a parent secretly placed in her child's backpack, and halting an Aug. 16 hearing to suspend her for 30 days without pay, and place her on a plan of improvement.
According to the petition, Rogers, along with her aide, Yvonne Francisco, were placed on paid leave Nov. 3 after Kathy Crouse accused them of verbally mistreating their students. Crouse backed up her allegations by providing the Board in October an audio recording that she placed in her son's backpack over the course of several weeks.
According to press reports, Crouse became concerned when her son started acting act out shortly after the start of the 2009-10 school year. She decided to plant the tape recorder in the backpack when her requests to sit-in on Rogers' classes were rebuffed by the school principal.
In her petition, Rogers avers that she's made at least three requests to Hatfield and the Board on Oct. 19, May 7, and June 14, for a copy of the tape, all to no avail. Since the tape was made without her knowledge or consent, and is used as the basis for disciplining her, she maintains they have an obligation to provide it to her.
"Although counsel for the Petitioner requested discovery and a copy of the tape recordings, the Petitioner had not received same is now scheduled for a hearing before the Board of Education for a thirty (30) day suspension and an improvement period based on evidence from a nonconsensual illegally recorded tape recording of the Petitioner," Rogers stated.
According to The Charleston Gazette, the Board still held a hearing on Aug. 16. Though they suspended Francisco for 30 days without pay, the Board postponed making a decision to discipline Rogers.
Following the hearing, Hatfield declined to say if Rogers' petition played a role in the decision. Also, Rogers' attorney, Dwight Staples, with the Huntington law firm of Henderson, Henderson and Staples, did not return repeated telephone calls left by The West Virginia Record.
As of presstime, a hearing has yet to be scheduled on Rogers' petition.
The case is assigned to Judge Phillip M. Stowers.
Putnam Circuit Court case number 10-C-271