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Michigan teacher victim of wrongful discharge, reinstated

Aside from teaching, grading tests and mentoring the young minds of tomorrow, teachers sometimes have to face more unpleasant aspects of the job. When it comes to a physical altercation between students, some teachers may be placed in a bind concerning how and when to intervene. After a Michigan teacher broke apart a fight in her classroom, she was given what some believed to be a wrongful discharge for her actions.

Apparently, an argument concerning a designer belt spawned a physical fight between two male students. While still in the classroom with their teacher and classmates, the two knocked into furniture while throwing punches at one another. As her class fell into chaos, the teacher yelled for them to stop multiple times, but the two boys kept at it. Next she attempted to contact security, but her portable radio appeared to not be working at the time.

The fight is said to have begun to escalate to a level that made it extremely unsafe. At that point, the teacher took hold of a broom and smacked one of the boys on the back with it, yelling for them to stop. The pair still refused to listen and ultimately a fellow male student had to finally pull one off of the other. Later, a video surfaced of the fight and the teacher’s attempts to break it up, and she was fired.

The school cited child abuse and using corporal punishment as grounds for her discharge, although it appears the teacher’s actions arose solely from her attempt to stop the fight. Furthermore, a school code cited that a teacher may use “reasonable physical force” for multiple reasons, including the defense of others or to stop a disturbance that might leave somebody injured. Eventually, she was reinstated to her teaching position, but others in Michigan with a similar experience might not be so lucky. In order to recoup damages for lost wages or other associated financial losses, some victims might find that filing a wrongful discharge claim against a former employer can be a strong and responsible step toward achieving financial stability after wrongfully losing a job.

Source: Morning Sun Columns, "Tiffani Eaton was technically wrong but morally right", Les Rosan, May 15, 2014

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