A look at differing outcomes in the firing process

Terrance Britt

Position: School counselor, Henry Clay Middle School, L.A. Unified School District

Allegations: At after-work gathering in 2006, got in argument in which he grabbed a female co-worker. Her 57-year-old boyfriend later confronted Britt, 36, and Britt beat him severely. Britt pleaded no contest to assault.

Defense: He paid restitution, attended AA, anger management classes. Told commission he was not “totally innocent” but believed others played a significant part in the incident. His lawyer said Britt acted in self-defense.

Decision: Firing overturned in 2007. L.A. Unified “failed to establish that [Britt’s] misconduct or his conviction has adversely affected students or other district employees.” He’s now a counselor at Bret Harte Preparatory Middle School in South L.A.

Matef Harmachis

Position: Economics and government teacher, Santa Barbara School District

Allegations: Put student in headlock; made offensive remarks such as: “Just because you’re good in bed doesn’t mean you can eat in class.” Hugged, kissed a girl, told her to “rub her body all over his.”

Defense: He denied some of the statements, said others were not intended as sexual. Said prominent parents pressured district to dismiss him and he did not get proper notice of the allegations.

Decision: Firing overturned in 2006. His comments show an unfitness to teach in some respects but he “did not have improper sexual motivations for his conduct. Rather he sought to achieve class goals or to counsel students about life choices.” Appellate court upheld earlier decisions reinstating his job.

Michael Klinkert

Position: Special education teacher, Grossmont Union High School District

Allegations: Delayed or denied meals to misbehaving students, sometimes for a full afternoon. Allowed staff to use foul language, tell inappropriate jokes in front of children.

Defense: Former recipient of Distinguished Service Award, reputation as dedicated and skillful. When confronted by an aide about withholding meals, he immediately stopped.

Decision: Firing overturned in 2006. Appellate court upheld earlier decisions reinstating his job.

Paul J. Ewell

Position: Math teacher at Aliso Viejo Middle School, Capistrano Unified School District

Allegations: Had an improper relationship with a 14-year-old. Although sexual relations weren’t alleged, the two shared intimate communications despite complaints from the child’s mother that it was “abnormal.”

Defense: The former Teacher of the Year said he was “passionate about teaching.” Contended that the inquiry violated his civil rights and that the district was mainly at fault because it failed to provide teachers with concrete examples of sexual harassment.

Decision: Fired in 2008. Commissioners found his conduct “weird, stupid, creepy, sick, unjustifiable, extremely disturbing, completely inappropriate and beyond the bounds of professionalism.”

Ron Bhare

Position: Science teacher, Mira Costa High School, Manhattan Beach Joint Unified School District

Allegations: Threatened to abuse students who didn’t do well on test, saying they would have to “bend over and grab their ankles”; threw objects at students; put some in headlocks. Advocated inflicting violence against illegal immigrants; sprayed butane at a student who was toying with a lighted Bunsen burner, threatening to set his clothes on fire.

Defense: Bhare admitted mistakes and sought “clinical treatment.” Many students said he was one of the best teachers they had ever had.

Decision: Fired in 2003. Commission majority said retaining this “otherwise excellent teacher” would expose the district to liability.

Iris Mayers

Position: Third-grade teacher, Longfellow Elementary School, Compton Unified School District

Allegations: Physically abused students on six occasions in 1994-95. Slapped one girl who had brought a note from a family member asking Mayers to stop mistreating her. After an investigation, was returned to the classroom in 1995-96 and physically abused students on eight more occasions.

Defense: Mayers said she did nothing wrong and “accepts no responsibility for her conduct,” according to documents filed with the state.

Decision: Fired in 1998.

A sampling of cases decided in the last 15 years by Commissions on Professional Competence, the final administrative arbiters of whether teachers or other credentialed employees should be fired.