Mark C. Binghurst (Source of photo: The Daily Journal)
Behavior has consequences.
A 5th-grade teacher in New Jersey, who was arrested for lewdness after running naked through an apartment parking lot, became the first successful test case of the state’s new teacher tenure law enabling a speedier firing of errant teachers. In the past, tenure cases had dragged on for a year or more.
Diane D’Amico reports for PressOfAtlanticCity, Dec. 13, 2012, that Mark C. Bringhurst was a fifth-grade teacher at the Winslow Elementary School in Vineland, NJ (photo above), for about eight years, and was its Teacher of the Year for 2011-12.
On March 21, Bringhurst was arrested by Berlin Township police in Camden County and charged with lewdness after running naked through the Greenway Apartments parking lot. According to the police report cited in the case, Bringhurst said it was the second time he had done so, both times on a dare, but he did not expect anyone to see him. The case was heard in municipal court, and in July the charges were amended to “acting in an improper manner” to which Bringhurst pleaded guilty.
The Vineland school district on June 27 notified Bringhurst that tenure charges would be brought before the local board of education, which held a hearing on Oct. 18. In his decision posted on the Department of Education web site Dec. 5, arbitrator Robert C. Gifford said Bringhurst exercised very poor judgment on more than one occasion, and his lack of judgement is not diminished by the fact that the conduct occurred outside of school: “The respondent’s actions are simply not consistent with the conduct that a fifth-grade elementary teacher must display, whether in or out of the classroom.” Gifford concluded that the penalty of dismissal was justifiable and reasonable.
The arbitrator’s decision does not affect Bringhurst’s teaching license or his ability to teach in another district. The decision to revoke his license would be made separately by the state Board of Examiners.
Bringhurst’s attorney, Robert Bowman, said he thought the arbitration process was “fair and expeditious” and “brought resolution in a timely manner.” Representatives of both the state teacher’s union and the school boards association said the new procedure protected Bringhurst’s right of due process while resolving the case in a timely manner. It took less than four months from the time charges were filed with the state.
State Department of Education officials said the case was the first to be handled under the new arbitration system, and there are currently 31 additional active tenure cases statewide.
The binding arbitration system is part of the new state TEACHNJ tenure reform law and was included to make it easier for school districts to terminate tenured teachers.
Prior contested tenure cases had gone through the administrative court system and had often taken a year to resolve. The New Jersey Education Association proposed an arbitration system to make sure tenured teachers could not be arbitrarily fired and would still have the right of due process. Under the new law, signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Aug. 6, a hearing must be held within 45 days of a contested tenure case being assigned.
H/t NBC affiliate 4NewYork
As of this morning, Mark Bringhurst is still listed as a member of Winslow Elementary School’s faculty.