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Surrendered license after accusation she waited too long to report suspected abuse Wichita teacher who lost license asks state board to reconsider

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, May 7, 2012, at 2:39 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at 6:32 a.m.

A Wichita teacher who resigned and surrendered her license after allegedly waiting too long to report suspected child abuse has asked state school officials to reinstate her license.

“Donna wants her license back, and she wants her job back,” said Ronald Lyon, a Wichita attorney who is representing the teacher, Donna Ford.

Ford, a former kindergarten teacher at Cleaveland Traditional Magnet Elementary School, filed a “petition to reconsider” with the Kansas Board of Education late last week. State board president David Dennis of Wichita said he will ask board members to add the item to the agenda for their regular meeting today in Topeka.

Ford surrendered her teaching license last month to the state board, a condition of her resignation with early-retirement benefits from the Wichita district. Board members voted 6-2 to accept the surrender and revoke Ford’s license. She had been a teacher for 17 years.

“We’re hoping they reinstate her tomorrow because the only reason they revoked her license was because she voluntarily surrendered it,” Lyon said Monday.

He added that the move likely would void Ford’s earlier agreement with the Wichita district to resign in lieu of termination.

“They’ll have to discharge her or decline to renew her contract and either way, she’s entitled to due process,” Lyon said.

Wichita schools spokeswoman Susan Arensman said the district would not comment because it is a personnel matter.

In a letter to state board members, Lyon wrote: “There is simply no issue now before the Board which would warrant its further involvement. Should USD 259 officials decide to pursue their allegation against my client, then, and only then, would the issue of her professional conduct and possible termination be before the Board or the Professional Practice Committee.”

Attorneys and education officials have said Ford’s case marks the first time a Kansas teacher has resigned and surrendered her license as a consequence for allegedly taking too long to report suspected abuse.

Kansas law requires teachers, doctors, counselors and other mandatory reporters to inform the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services or law enforcement agencies if they suspect a child has been abused.

Details of Ford’s case – including when and how she first suspected a student was being abused, whether other school employees knew of her suspicions and why a report may have been delayed – have not been made public.

According to a letter Ford submitted to the state Department of Education in March, the resignation and license surrender were “a result of allegations that I delayed reporting alleged sexual abuse for a period of two weeks.”

Under the terms of her agreement with the Wichita district, Ford surrendered her license without involving the Professional Practices Commission, a body that investigates cases of alleged professional misconduct and makes recommendations to the state Board of Education.

The state board will meet at 10 a.m. today in the state Department of Education board room in Topeka.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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