Last week, a Tacoma, Washington, kindergarten teacher was fired after being found drunk on the job. Allegedly, this is not the first time she had displayed such unfitting behaviour. On Tuesday, officials of the Tacoma School District released a report that showed the teacher in question was not only drunk but had a blood alcohol content (BAC) that was five times the legal limit.
On February 19, Klara Bowman was fired from her position at the kindergarten after another teacher reportedly noticed that the teacher was acting strangely. During what was supposed to be a reading lesson in Bowman’s classroom, the other teacher said she acted “out of it” and actually was observed falling over and onto two of her students before she was able to prop herself back up and laughed. The teacher did not report the odd behavior, however, but as the report released outlined, Bowman’s student reported her.
The details of the report amounted to over a hundred pages of documentation. Dan Voelpel, the executive director of communications for Tacoma Public Schools, is more than pleased with the amount of research on this case and has stated that “to fire anyone in any industry, there has to be a lot of documentation.” Considering the fact that KIRO 7 News reported Bowman filed an appeal to the school district for firing her, the documentation will have further uses in the future. The investigation discovered that after the teacher was removed from the classroom, her blood alcohol content was tested and the results were quite alarming.
Despite being responsible for the children in her classroom, the 32-year-old teacher’s BAC came back as being at least 0.4 — the reason for the use of “at least” is because 0.4 is as high as the test can register. This means that it is entirely possible that the kindergarten teacher’s BAC was even higher than 0.4 at the time she was tested. A result of 0.4 is five times the legal limit to drive in the state of Washington.
The report went on to explain that the test was administered after the school’s assistant principal discovered Bowman slumped in a chair in the far corner of the classroom with her head hanging backwards. The assistant principal became involved when a student from Klara Bowman’s class came seeking help for her teacher at the main office of Larchmont Elementary. When she was removed from the classroom, she was described as having slurred speech and being very unsteady on her feet.
The teacher is also accused of attempting to destroy evidence of her alcoholism by trying to have another teacher get rid of the alcohol she had carried into the classroom. Text messages Bowman sent to one of her co-workers were included in the report and show instructions to locate several bottles of alcohol hidden in the classroom along with the request to throw them out before they were discovered by someone else. The co-worker notified the school. An empty bottle of wine, another of rum, two drinking containers that smelled of alcohol, and some over-the-counter medications were all found in the classroom.
A Wash. kindergarten teacher fired for allegedly drinking on the job had a BAC five times the legal limit. https://t.co/nUljtasLkv— ArgusLeader911 (@Argus911) March 9, 2016
According to USA Today, the first time Bowman was found bringing alcohol to class was back in February 2011. The Tacoma Public Schools officials choose to not fire her and instead had her sign a “last chance agreement,” which stipulated she complete rehabilitative treatment. Voelpel explained the initial leniency was to try and save a good teacher.
“We certainly could have terminated her at that time. I simply think there was a recognition that alcoholism is a disease, and if we put up some rigorous standards for the teacher to meet and she could meet those and show she could come back to the classroom sober and do the good work she’d been doing before, that it could be worth it.”
In the five years since, Bowman went to AA meetings and participated in random drug and alcohol tests that all showed she was keeping to the contract, but it all ended last month. Voelpel says that her relapse violated the “Last Chance agreement,” and the school district had all rights to fire her.
The conclusion of the investigative report into Klara Bowman’s behavior is that her being drunk in the classroom meant she could have caused “serious harm” to her students, who are only 5 and 6-years-old.
It will take months to get a ruling on the appeal which Klara Bowman filed.