A public school in Michigan is having a hard time getting rid of a teacher after she had an obscenity-laced meltdown in front of her students and then walked out on them. The teacher declared that she was quitting before she abruptly left the classroom, leaving her injectable diabetes medication on top of her desk, according to documents obtained by Michigan Capitol Confidential.
The school accepted the teacher’s verbal notice as a resignation, but she later had a change of heart and claimed she did not formally quit. Since last April, the tenured teacher and the school have been engaged in a legal battle over her employment status.
Anne Purdun, a second-grade teacher at Emerson Elementary, yelled profanities in her classroom while students were present on April 20, 2016, according to charges filed by the school for a tenure proceeding, obtained through an open records law request. The charges include three counts of misconduct/insubordination, one count of misconduct/unprofessional conduct, and one count of abandonment.
During the April incident, Purdun was taking her class into a music classroom and became frustrated. The school district reported that Purdun said, “I will quit this freaking job! I am done. I am done with it!” and repeated her intent to quit in front of students and co-workers.
After dropping the class off at the music room, Purdun returned to her classroom yelling profanities in front of a student and a school social worker. The two were discussing a previous issue that may have instigated her outburst. Purdun then gathered some personal belongings from her desk said, “I have 25 years in, [vulgarity] this place, I quit; I’m done!” On her way out the building, Purdun told another employee that this individual would likely take over her class since she “just quit.”
According to the district’s charges, she then left in her car. “She did not contact the administration before she left the building or ensure that an adult would retrieve her students from music class. She did not request a substitute teacher or indicate how long she would be gone for.” Purdun was gone for the rest of the school day and did not answer her phone when administrators called.
Patricia Batista, then-superintendent of the district, sent a letter to her home accepting her resignation later that day.
Purdun’s meltdown in April of 2016 wasn’t the first time she had behaved inappropriately at school. The documents show that she’s had a history of misconduct.
“Mrs. Purdun has a history of yelling and making demeaning statements directed at individual students that is both embarrassing for the student and unprofessional,” the charges said. “Mrs. Purdun refused to recognize that her behavior was unacceptable and unprofessional and her misconduct continued to the day she resigned.”
“On several occasions throughout the 2015-16 school year, Mrs. Purdun has yelled at individual students out of frustration and impatience,” according to the charges, which also said that she told her class to shut up and used harsh disciplinary methods.
This should be a cut and dried case, even considering Purdun’s tenured status as Michigan changed its teacher tenure laws in 2011.
One key difference was changing the legal standard of dismissing a tenured teacher from requiring “reasonable and just cause” to simply “not arbitrary or capricious.” In practical terms this has meant school districts have been able to remove more tenured teachers out of the classroom since the process is faster and an administrative law judge is less likely to overrule the district’s decision.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is doing an investigation of every tenure case in Michigan, and the results show significantly more tenured teachers losing their jobs, fewer cases before the state tenure commission, and less costs in legal fees and buyouts. A previous investigation before the state changed tenure laws showed that even teachers violating state laws, much less having problems at their jobs as educators, were very difficult to remove.
Documents dated June 30, 2016, show that Batista recommended the Ionia Public School Board of Education proceed with tenure charges. The case is currently being reviewed by an administrative law judge who will decide if Purdun actually resigned. If the judge rules that she did not formally resign, the tenure charges and school board will determine her future employment.
Ben DeGrow, director of education policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said: “This case could further vindicate past improvements of Michigan’s teacher tenure law,” he said. “A key part of the 2011 reform made it cheaper and easier for districts to part ways with veteran teachers who badly misbehave.”