Questions Remain in Mitchell Investigation
Police report sheds little light on reasons behind high school teacher's paid administrative leave
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A records request reveals no specific information about why social studies teacher and IB Diploma Programme Coordinator Timothy Mitchell was placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 21 pending the outcome of an investigation by law enforcement.
On Feb. 22, The Shakerite requested from the Shaker Heights Police Department all incident reports, arrest reports and offense reports involving Mitchell.
According to an SHPD offense/incident report, at 9 a.m. on Jan. 19, “A female reported criminal activity that had occurred in the city of Shaker Heights.”
In addition to the names of district administrators contacted by the SHPD, the report included the names of three adult females. All names were designated as “other involved.”
According to John Cole, commander of the SHPD Investigative Bureau, for a person to be listed on the report as “other involved,” the SHPD “would have received information from them in some way.”
Mitchell’s name did not appear in the report.
John Morris, English teacher and president of the Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association, explained how a teacher can be placed on paid leave. “If there is any kind of legal or parent concern, if there is any student disciplinary issue, if there is any concern about a teacher’s performance . . . or anything related to licensure,” he said, “it is incumbent upon the district, because of the Ohio Department of Education or the district’s own policies, to put a teacher on paid administrative leave during an investigation conducted by district or law enforcement.”
The Shakerite contacted Cole to verify that the report concerned Mitchell.
Cole responded, “I can’t talk about any ongoing investigations.”
In a Feb. 21 letter sent to parents of Mitchell’s students, Principal Jonathan Kuehnle wrote, “We do not have any details at this time, but please know there are no concerns related to your child.”
The Ohio Department of Education’s website stated that, “if it is determined that an investigation is warranted, a thorough investigation would be conducted pursuant to Section 3319.311 of the Ohio Revised Code at which time all mitigating circumstances will be fully examined to determine whether the allegation can be substantiated.”
Section 3319.311 of the Ohio Revised Code lays out the process by which investigations of school employees are conducted.
While on paid leave, Morris said that teachers are “expected to be accessible for their eight-hour work day. They’re typically not to be on campus.”
“It is definitely not a vacation,” he added. “They are checking in at 8 a.m. and checking out at 4 p.m., via phone call.”
According to Morris, termination of an employee placed on paid leave “all depends on the length of the investigation and the findings of the investigative team.”
“The district usually relies on and trusts law enforcement,” added Morris.
The ODE provides a list of offenses that, if committed by teachers, make them ineligible for rehabilitation and require that they forfeit their teaching licenses. The list itemizes other offenses that do qualify for rehabilitation and retention of licensure.
If the findings incriminate the teacher, disciplinary action “depends on the charges or what the Ohio Department of Education has to say,” Morris said.
The ODE’s website further explains that the “range of disciplinary actions are presumptions and may include a letter of admonishment, consent agreement, limitation of a license, suspension of a license, revocation of a license, or denial of a license. The terms ‘suspension,’ ‘revocation,’ and ‘denial’ shall mean any length of suspension, revocation or denial, including permanent revocation or permanent denial.”
For more information on loss of licensure and investigations into professional conduct, see the ODE’s Licensure Code of Professional Conduct or their list of frequently-asked-questions about Investigative Process Procedures.
While Mitchell is on leave, his AP U.S. History classes are being taught by social studies teachers Sarah Davis and Joe Konopinski. In turn, their Global Studies classes are being taught by Jessica Minto. John Moore, currently the District IB Coordinator, has assumed Mitchell’s role of IB Diploma Programme Coordinator.
Neither Executive Director of Communications Scott Stephens, nor Assistant Director of Communications Kristen Miller were available for comment. Director of Human Resources Darlene Bushley declined to speak with The Shakerite unless permission was granted from Stephens.
The Shakerite will cover this story as it develops.
Correction: Dr. John Morris was incorrectly identified as a social studies teacher in the initial post. He is an English teacher.