Saturday, January 25, 2003

Lawyer says teacher wasn't acting immoral

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Attorneys for a Fayette County teacher who was fired after she was jailed for trespassing during a protest in 2001 said her conduct was neither immoral nor harmful to students.

Janice Sevre-Duszynska, who taught English as a second language for 12 years at Henry Clay High School, was fired last month.

She served a 90-day sentence at the Federal Medical Center prison camp in Lexington. She was arrested in November 2001 for trespassing at Fort Benning, Ga., during a protest against the former School of the Americas.

Just after her prison release, she received a letter from interim Superintendent Duane Tennant saying she had been fired for insubordination - being absent without leave - and for conduct unbecoming a teacher. At a hearing Thursday, attorneys said Ms. Sevre-Duszynska had no choice but to report to prison.

Much of Thursday's testimony concerned a leave of absence, which Ms. Sevre-Duszynska had asked for but was not granted. Because she was absent without leave, she violated her contract, school system attorney Bob Chenoweth said.

Mr. Chenoweth also implied that Ms. Sevre-Duszynska had not done everything she could to keep her job. Neither she nor Mr. Tennant asked the school board, the final arbiter on such decisions, for its opinion on a leave of absence.

Mr. Tennant said he acted unilaterally because he could not find anything in school board policy authorizing a leave for incarceration.

Ms. Sevre-Duszynska said she could not have appealed to the school board because Mr. Tennant banned her from school property, where board meetings are held.

The hearing is being held before assistant state attorney general Michael Head. A three-person tribunal is the jury.

Closing arguments were scheduled for Friday, and a decision is expected next week.

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