Judge Sides With Miami-Dade Teacher Who Was Suspended After Spanking Son In Class, Says He Should Be Reinstated

CBS Miami News | August 31, 2020

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A Miami-Dade teacher who was suspended after spanking his misbehaving son in another teacher’s classroom should be reinstated, according to an administrative law judge.

Last November, the Miami=Dade School Board suspended and began dismissal proceedings against Blucher Menelas, a chemistry teacher at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School.

The board took action because of a February 2019 incident in which Menelas went to Madie Ives K-8 Preparatory Academy after receiving an email from a teacher, Patricia Costa, that his son was being disruptive and poorly behaved, according to the ruling by Administrative Law Judge John Van Laningham.

Menelas spoke to Costa’s class and apologized for his son’s poor behavior. He then directed his son, identified in the ruling by the initials T.M., to stand before the class and hand over his belt. Menelas then spanked the boy with the belt in front of the class, according to the ruling.

After the class, Costa reported the spanking to an assistant principal, and the school board ultimately alleged that Menelas violated a district policy against corporal punishment.

Menelas appealed, and Van Laningham pointed to Menelas’ right as a parent to spank the child.

“If Menelas had spanked his son in the same manner in the aisle of a Walmart store, the district would not have jurisdiction to discipline him for such conduct — not, at least, under the charges that have been brought against Menelas in this case,” Van Laningham wrote. “If Menelas were, e.g., an accountant instead of a teacher, the district likewise would be without authority to impose discipline for violating the corporal punishment policy. Yet, there is no basis in the record for the undersigned to make a finding that Menelas would have acted any differently under the circumstances if he were an accountant.”

n his ruling, Van Laningham wrote that there was overwhelming evidence shows that Menelas’s position as a teacher was entirely irrelevant to his conduct in this situation.

“He was clearly present in Ms. Costa’s classroom that day as T.M.’s father, not as anyone’s teacher. The unique facts at hand compel the undersigned (judge) to conclude that Menelas — who was neither on duty nor at his worksite during the subject incident, and who, as a parent, had been invited by his son’s teacher to observe his son in her class — cannot be disciplined for violating the corporal punishment policy,” wrote Van Laningham. “The district must treat him no differently than it would treat any other parent who engaged in the same legally sanctioned conduct.”

Under administrative law, Van Laningham’s ruling is a recommended order that must go back to the school board for final action.

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