SSISD board upholds teacher's suspension with pay
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

May 25, 2004 -- In a called board meeting at noon Monday, trustees of Sulphur Springs Independent School District upheld action taken by school administration last week in suspending a career technology teacher, with pay, for the remainder of the school year for showing students the graphic video of American civilian Nicholas Berg's beheading at the hands of terrorists in Iraq.

"This did happen in his class with his knowledge," Assistant Superintendent Randy Reed said. "Due to the circumstances revolving around all this, we have suspended him for the rest of the year, with pay, pending further investigation."

Following the Monday school board meeting, Reed continued to decline to identify the teacher in question, citing the potential for further investigation.

"I think that this is something that will be addressed at a regular board meeting in June," he said. "This was just a special called board meeting and I think, at the regular board meeting in June, they will make a final decision on where we are."

Superintendent Mark Henry said 16 students were in the electricity and construction graphics classes at the time the video was shown, but not all of them watched it.

"The best we can come up with is about about eight kids actually watched the video off a computer screen," Henry said.

The superintendent said only one parent had complained to school officials about the incident, but that one was enough. Whether to allow students to view that video is a decision he felt should be made by the parent, not the school, drawing an analogy to "R" rated films.

"If I want to take my children to an 'R' rated movie, that's fine," Henry said. "But I don't want the school to take them to an 'R' rated movie."

While the Monday school board meeting finalized the administration's actions in suspending the teacher, Randy Reed said he anticipated the board would continue to look into the incident.

Similar incidents in other schools have resulted in disciplinary action against instructors.

At Northwest High School, north of Fort Worth, two teachers were suspended for the remainder of the school year and until the start of the next school term after showing the video in their classrooms.

Elsewhere, world history teacher at Abilene High School was placed on paid administrative leave after school officials say she showed the beheading video to students in two classes last week.

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