Student Well-Being

Suicide Spurs Va. District To Revise Misconduct Probes

By Linda Jacobson — March 31, 2004 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Roanoke, Va., city school district has fine-tuned its policy on investigations of alleged employee misconduct following a teacher’s suicide last year.

Ronald Mayfield Jr., a teacher at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, was put on administrative leave last Oct. 1 after a student in his class of English-language learners accused the teacher of hitting him. On Oct. 16, Mr. Mayfield, 55, jumped off the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge over the Roanoke River and died, unaware that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing and that the investigation had been concluded.

Urged by members of Mr. Mayfield’s family, who believed his death could have been avoided had he known the status of the investigation, the district formed a committee to examine the district’s existing policies.

“We had never had a situation like this,” said Paul D. Britt Jr., the executive for human resources in the 13,000-student district in southwestern Virginia. “The death of Mr. Mayfield brought it more to the forefront.”

The committee, which is made up of teachers, administrators, parents, and other district employees, recommended that employees who are placed on administrative leave be given an update on the investigation every three to five days. The school board approved the policy this month.

More frequent communication, Mr. Britt said, also keeps parents of the involved student aware of any developments or decisions by the police department or the city’s child-protective-services agency.

False-Accusation Policy

At the same time, the school board also adopted a policy stating that “students shall not willfully or maliciously make false accusations/reports against school personnel or other students.” School administrators will determine the consequences.

Mr. Britt could not confirm that the student had falsely accused Mr. Mayfield, but said, “That’s a good question.”

The committee, which met five times between November and February, and will continue to meet annually to review the policy, also recommended that a page be added to the employee handbook stating that the same rules about making false accusations also apply to employees.

Accusations made by one employee against another employee are more common than those made by students, according to Mr. Britt.

In addition to reviewing the policies, the district distributed a brochure to employees to help them understand the steps taken when an investigation is under way. Two “town meetings” were also held this month to give the public an opportunity to ask questions about the policy changes.

Frank Rogers, a Roanoke lawyer representing the Mayfield family, said the changes were probably a step in the right direction, but said they were still reactions to an employee’s questionable placement on administrative leave.

“Fundamentally, it should be asked whether that is the right response to an allegation” in the first place, he said.

John Mitchell, the deputy director of the educational issues department of the American Federation of Teachers, said that districts should be “very assertive that staff are innocent until proven guilty.”

If a local union begins to detect a pattern of false accusations of abuse made by students, its officials might consider helping teachers pursue lawsuits against students for slander.

“When a teacher is falsely accused, districts need to have strong policies that there will be severe repercussions for the student,” Mr. Mitchell said. “We don’t want to be aggressive or hurt the student, but trifling with someone’s reputation is something that should not be taken lightly.”

Related Tags:

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind
Student Achievement K-12 Essentials Forum Tutoring Done Right: How to Get the Highest Impact for Learning Recovery
Join us as we highlight and discuss the evidence base for tutoring, best practices, and different ways to provide it at scale.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on SEL for Emotional Intelligence
This Spotlight will help you identify what classifies as SEL, implement an effective SEL program, and more.

Student Well-Being 4 Ways to Leverage Education Foundations to Support School-Based Mental Health
Education foundations don’t need big budgets to help school districts with rising mental health challenges.
4 min read
Illustrated character getting carried away by a brain balloon.
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being What Is the 'Mentoring Gap,' and How Can Schools Help Close It?
Overall, more young people have access to mentors, but Gen Z has fallen a bit behind millennials.
3 min read
Female teacher and male student sitting together at a table with a laptop and tablet
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being What the Research Says How a School District Used Music Teaching to Keep Students Connected
A wider variety of music programs may help students feel more connected to school, new research suggests.
3 min read
Dressed in her shoulder pads and jersey, 8th grader Julie Michael, 13, holds her flute before playing the national anthem with the marching band at Seven Springs Middle School in New Port Richey, Fla.
Trumpet player Blake Gifford, 12, at right, rehearses with the horn section in the band room on March 8, 2017, at Lakeside Middle School in Millville, N.J.
Ben Fogletto/The Press of Atlantic City via AP