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Parents stunned by Arbor View teacher’s text rant

Melissa Sharp’s cellphone buzzed.

It was a text sent during school from her daughters’ band teacher.

Strange, she thought. What was wrong?

The message was about the younger of her two daughters, a junior at Arbor View High School, east of U.S. Highway 95 on Grand Teton Drive. Sharp soon realized the text wasn’t meant for her. She’s probably the last person the teacher, Justin Klarer, wanted to read it.

Klarer’s text read that Sharp’s daughter “was a drama queen last night at the away game and ‘passed out.’ I called the bitch’s bluff and got the paramedics and made the parents drive all the way out to Palo Verde High School to pick her up… They wanted to KILL HER!!!!”

Klarer then referred to the student as “stupid” and used obscene slang for female genitalia to describe her.

Melissa Sharp and her husband, Larry, assumed that Klarer meant to send the text to a color guard instructor who works with him. Her name is also Melissa.

“When I read this, I was shaking,” said Larry Sharp, whose daughter has back problems. “I knew I couldn’t be in the same room as him.”

When reached by the Review-Journal, Klarer declined to comment.

Since receiving the Sept. 2 text, the Sharps have shown it to Arbor View Principal Kevin McPartlin and sent certified letters about it to Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones and School Board member Chris Garvey, who represents the Arbor View community.

But first, they pulled both their daughters from band and color guard. Other parents did the same.

Parent Angela McClelland is “torn” about what to do but has kept her daughter in the color guard.

“It’s the only thing she’s involved in, and she’s captain of 24 girls,” she said.

McClelland has no doubts that Klarer sent the text. Klarer told the color guard about it the following Monday and apologized, she said.

Still, the Sharps haven’t heard a thing from School District officials or the principal about what consequences, if any, Klarer may face. And they never will.

State law prohibits the district from revealing disciplinary actions taken against employees, even to those who lodged the complaint, said Associate Superintendent Edward Goldman, the district’s chief negotiator for employee-management relations.

Garvey said she and the super­intendent received the Sharps’ letters, but she can’t comment for the same reasons that Goldman cited.

“We’re aware of it, and I’m confident he’ll handle it,” she said, referring to Superintendent Jones.

The district released a statement about on the incident on Saturday:

“We have taken this situation very seriously and taken appropriate actions regarding the teacher in question. We are and will continue to work with our parents to ensure their concerns are addressed. We expect to be held to a high standard. We are working towards that standard.”

The only way the Sharps might learn of their case’s outcome is if Klarer stops showing up for work, which may mean the district dismissed or suspended him, said Goldman, who didn’t speak about the Arbor View case specifically.

However, he said, the district would rarely suspend or dismiss teachers in such circumstances. If a district investigation is conducted and finds the teacher at fault, the teacher would likely only be “admonished,” which means being given a warning to “not do that again,” Goldman said.

The district can’t do much more, although Sharp insists that most workers who call a customer an offensive name would be fired on the spot.

The district’s hands are, to an extent, tied.

The state outlines procedures for dealing with inappropriate behavior from school workers. However, state law also says that those measures would “not apply” to teachers if a contract exists between the school district and a labor union that outlines the district’s “right to dismiss” workers. The contract would “supersede” state rules.

And Clark County teachers have a contract with the district. It establishes a system of progressive discipline.

For the first offense, a worker is given an oral warning. It escalates for repeat offenses to written warnings, possible suspensions and dismissal. And this escalation only applies to incidents that are similar.

For example, if a teacher makes an inappropriate remark to a student, the teacher would be warned. If that same teacher then didn’t show up for work one day with no reasonable excuse, they would receive a warning.

Since the behaviors are unrelated, they each count as a first offense and don’t move the teacher up a rung on the discipline ladder.

“That doesn’t mean you punch a kid and all you get is a verbal warning,” clarified Goldman clarified. There are exceptions, such as assaulting students, having sexual relations with students or being found guilty of a crime.

“Under those very serious ones, no one’s going to argue” against skipping to the top of progressive discipline, he said.

But it’s difficult to justify dismissals in gray areas, like the texting situation, said Goldman said.

The district can try to skip progressive discipline, but if the teacher appeals, an arbitrator would likely overthrow the dismissal or suspension and say the teacher should just be warned.

That would be even more likely if it’s a teacher’s first offense, Goldman said.

In Klarer’s case, only the district knows his history.

The district only releases broad disciplinary information.

In 2010-11, the district dismissed 33 employees. One worker was dismissed but reinstated after arbitration. Three were reinstated after a settlement was reached. One dismissal was upheld in arbitration, 14 arbitration cases remained open and 14 were closed.

In 2009-10, 34 dismissals occurred. Three employees were dismissed but reinstated after arbitration. Eight were reinstated after a settlement was reached. Two dismissals were upheld in arbitration, three arbitration cases remained open and 18 were closed.

Transgressions can range from bus drivers’ letting their licenses lapse to teachers having sex with students, Goldman said, adding that the number of cases is minimal considering the district has about 40,000 employees.

A warning would likely be the same consequence faced by a Heckethorn Elementary School teacher reported to have revealed to her fourth-grade class that a student was a foster child, Goldman said.

Heckethorn is on Grand Teton Drive just west of Decatur Boulevard.

That incident surfaced when a foster mother, Paula Cheney, voiced her concern at a Sept. 8 School Board meeting.

“She came home on the second day of school almost in tears,” Cheney said of her child.

“Everybody in class knows I’m foster,” the girl said, according to Cheney.

Other students said they heard about the student’s foster history from the teacher when she was in the restroom. And that’s something the girl wants kept private, Cheney said.

“So much has happened to her,” said Cheney, adding that’s often the case with foster children. Many have been abused or lived far below the poverty line.

“They eat like the food is going to run away,” Cheney said.

For that reason, when this girl and other foster children settle into a normal life, “it’s important that image remains.”

It’s discouraging that a “slap on the wrist” will likely be the only outcome, Cheney said. And with only a small number of people knowing about these incidents, how are other teachers supposed to learn the limits, she asked.

“This can’t be swept under the rug. I’ll make sure this one’s out there.”

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at
tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.

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