Paula Weckesser taught math in the Woodbridge School District in New Jersey for 30 years while also pulling off a "prolonged period" of misconduct, which included borderline corporeal punishment and name-calling students on Facebook.
Her behavior has cost Weckesser her job; this month, the New Jersey Board of Education suspended her teaching license for two years.
Weckesser had been teaching at Woodbridge High School and JFK Memorial High School when school officials sought her dismissal and initiated tenure proceedings. During a hearing last year before a state Board of Examiners, they said that they had grappled with her insubordination and unprofessional conduct for a long time.
In response to a student's comment on Facebook, Weckesser called other students "Loser!!" and disciplined a student who dozed off in class by forcing them to take notes while standing for 30 to 45 minutes.
But that was not all. She also reportedly failed to complete her grade book according to the school district's standards, was consistently late for work, and left her phone on so that it went off during a state exam. In one case, she ridiculed a student whose native tongue was not English when the pupil struggled to read the numbers on a calculator.
At the hearing, examiners were considering revoking her teaching certificates entirely. However, Weckesser's attorney, Edward A. Cridge, insisted that her actions were "not so grave that Weckesser should lose her certificates."
"I think that Weckesser deserves the chance to move on with her career in the future," he told the Board. "And hopefully she will be able to do that after the suspension."
Nevertheless, even Cridge admitted that "maybe it was right she lost her job."
Weckesser's remorse over her actions as well as her willingness to assume full responsibility for what she had done also helped spur the Board's leniency.
According to the ruling, she "noted that she had been a teacher for 30 years and that she loved kids, teaching and helping people."
If she wants to take it, they have given her a second chance, which is all well and good, however, their decision leaves many questions unanswered. There is no information about how, or even if, the Board will ensure she does not go back to her intolerable behavior if she takes up teaching in two years.
Inquiring minds want to know: How can the state make sure that other students of hers (however hypothetical they are at the moment) are protected?