EDUCATION

Whether Accused or Convicted, Some Teachers Remain on Payroll

Imagine getting a full salary and benefits for doing absolutely nothing. If you’re a teacher in the United States, you can – you just have to be accused of a crime.

States all over the country dole out millions of taxpayer dollars every year to teachers who aren't even permitted to set foot in a classroom.

Here are some who, thanks to the backing of strong unions and tenure, managed to stay on the school payroll even after confessing -- or being convicted of -- some of the worst offenses imaginable.

Jessica Heather DeFoor

Jessica Heather Defoor, a 35-year-old second grade teacher at Danville Neel Elementary School in Alabama, was convicted on Feb. 11 of enticing and sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. The victim said DeFoor sexually abused her and had sex with her brother while she was in the room.

Police said DeFoor admitted to giving the girl alcohol and having sex with her then-18-year-old brother -- a former student -- while both teens were at DeFoor’s house in February of 2006.

Still, DeFoor continues to get paid by the Morgan County School District, and despite her conviction, school board attorney J.R. Brooks told the Decatur Daily it could take up to six months to remove her from the school payroll, because state law requires that any tenured teacher go through a dismissal process.

John Morrison

John E. Morrison, a 62-year-old a music teacher at Romeo Elementary School in Florida, is charged with lewd and lascivious molestation and one count of battery for allegedly inappropriately touching two female students, ages 7 and 8, in May.

Police said Morrison admitted to putting his hand in the 7-year-old's pants to touch her leg and to putting his hand in the 8-year-old’s shirt to touch her chest, according to various media reports. They said he also admitted to touching the 8-year-old's buttocks.

Morrison continues to get paid as he awaits his trial, which is scheduled to begin next month.

Kristyn Breeds

Kristyn Breeds, a 29-year-old special education teacher and track coach at Northeast High School in Pasadena, Md., was charged with three counts of fourth-degree sex offense for her alleged relationship with a 17-year-old student at the school.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Breeds confessed to having sexual relations with the boy from the Spring of 2009 until December, but she has yet to be fired by the school, which suspended her with pay.

She faces a maximum of one year on each count if convicted.

Matef Harmachis

Matef Harmachis, 52, was reinstated to his teaching position at Santa Barbara High School in California in 2009 after being suspended with pay in 2005 for allegedly making physical threats, sexually inappropriate comments, using physical force and swearing in the classroom.

The allegations came just a year after Harmachis was transferred from a neighboring high school for similar reasons.

The school district reportedly has been trying to keep Harmachis out of the classroom since the first incident.

"We don’t believe Mr. Harmachis should be in a classroom working with kids," Superintendent Brian Sarvis told the Daily Nexus.

But after spending about $1 million trying to fire Harmachis, the school was forced by the district's Commission on Professional Competence, and later the courts, to give him his job back, Noozhawk.com reported.

The California Court of Appeals ruled in August that Harmachis' alleged comments -- which included telling a female student, "Just because you’re good in bed doesn’t mean you can eat in class," and a male student who wouldn’t surrender his cell phone, "I'll knock your dumb a** out" -- were overreactions but were "mitigated by Harmachis' desire to maintain classroom control in the face of repeated challenges to his authority."

Harmachis was reinstated in the fall.

Hector Osuna-Bonilla

Hector Manuel Osuna-Bonilla, a 59-year-old math teacher at Milwaukie High School in Oregon is charged with six counts of third-degree sexual abuse one count of attempted third-degree sexual abuse for allegedly inappropriately touching some of his female students from December of 2008 to December of 2009.

According to court documents, three girls ranging in age from 15 to 17 years old told police Osuna-Bonilla started massaging their backs while helping them with assignments then progressed to touching their legs and breasts. Another said he rubbed her thigh.

All four alleged victims also independently told police Osuna-Bonilla warned them that if they reported the abuse it would be "your word against mine," OregonLive.com reported.

Court documents show Osuna-Bonilla admitted to molesting two of the students, telling police that he “needed help,” then retracted his statement saying he touched the girls’ breasts but “not in a sexual way,” the website reported.

According to OregonLive.com, Bonilla has been on paid leave since December when the school began receiving complaints about him.

His trial is set for April 1.

Charlene Schmitz

Charlene Schmitz, a 57-year-old former teacher at Leroy High School in Alabama, was convicted in February 2008 of enticing a 14-year-old student for sex. She still faces state charges of rape and sodomy for allegedly having sex with a student.

Despite the conviction, Smith wasn't fired until May of that year and continued to collect a paycheck while in prison until November 30, 2009, because state law mandates that  teachers who appeal their termination continue to be paid until a hearing determines whether the firing was justified. To avoid self-incrimination, those hearings can't be held until the court cases have been decided.

Washington County schools CFO Larry Moss told AL.com that Smith received $164,493 in salary and retirement benefits since being suspended in August 2007.

"That's money we could have certainly used for something else," he told the Associated Press.

Tammy Clinton

Tammy Clinton, a 39-year-old teacher at Farnell Middle School, has been charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation and two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct after allegedly forcing a 14-year-old student to touch her breasts, fondling his buttocks, and enticing him to leave the campus twice so they could commit sexual acts.

Police said Clinton admitted to the accusations after her arrest, the Orlando Sun-Sentinel reported. She is banned from school grounds but will continue to receive her paycheck pending a complete investigation.

Russell Pittman

Russell Pittman, a 46-year-old band teacher at Pines Middle School in Florida is charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation after he allegedly grabbed a 14-year-old student’s breast and attempting to put his hand into her shirt while giving her a hug.

Police said Pittman admitted to the accusations both to officers and to his accuser during subsequent controlled, taped conversations.

But rather than fire Pittman, the school district moved him to a different job where it said he would not be in contact with children.

According to Broward County case records, the case against Pittman is still pending.

Whether Accused or Convicted, Some Teachers Remain on Payroll

Imagine getting a full salary and benefits for doing absolutely nothing. If you’re a teacher in the United States, you can – you just have to be accused of a crime.

States all over the country dole out millions of taxpayer dollars every year to teachers who aren't even permitted to set foot in a classroom.

Here are some who, thanks to the backing of strong unions and tenure, managed to stay on the school payroll even after confessing -- or being convicted of -- some of the worst offenses imaginable.

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