The Grade Blog

Thursday, Aug 01 2013 03:46 PM

Teacher returning to classroom despite repeat DUIs

BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

A teacher at a Kern County alternative school is scheduled to return to her job when classes resume later this month despite having been caught driving under the influence of alcohol three times since 2011.

Each time, Brandi Lynn Sherman, 38, had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit of .08 percent.

She pled guilty to a DUI charge in February 2011 and no contest to a DUI in March 2011 and one in September 2012.

Sherman didn't return a phone call. She wasn't home when a reporter stopped by her home Wednesday.

She teaches 9th through 12th grades and independent studies at Sillect Community School, a year-round public school program operated by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office.

Sherman was hired in August 2006.

KCSOS spokesman Rob Meszaros confirmed that Sherman was still an employee and due to return to work after summer break on Aug. 26, but declined to answer other questions, saying the situation was a private personnel matter.

In the most recent legal case against Sherman, a 180-day jail sentence was suspended in favor of three years probation and a $1,910 fine, but Sherman was ordered to return to Kern County Superior Court on July 29 for failing to comply with court-ordered counseling.

The California Teachers Association doesn't comment on individual cases, but in general there are no legal grounds for firing public school teachers for off-duty conduct that does not affect students, said CTA spokeswoman Dina Martin.

There are opportunities for private employers to terminate workers who misbehave away from work, said Bakersfield labor attorney Jay Rosenlieb, who does not represent Sherman or KCSOS.

"If it's determined that the alcoholism impacts the quality of work, then they can take action," Rosenlieb said.

He said private employers often have off-duty conduct clauses in employment agreements allowing them to fire workers whose behavior damages the employer's reputation.

 

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