Intoxicated middle school teacher to go to administrative appeals trial Monday

A Chinook Middle School physical education teacher who was terminated for coming to work intoxicated early in 2013 will take his case to appeal Monday.

Erik Schock is not disputing that he came to work intoxicated Feb. 11, 2013, but has argued that his behavior is "remediable" under precedent of the state Court of Appeals case of Federal Way School District No. 210 v. Vinson. In that case, a teacher successfully challenged probable cause for termination based on alleged harassment of a former student and dishonesty during the subsequent investigation.

Schock argued that his behavior did not constitute "flagrant misconduct," and that the appropriate response to the incident should be counseling or other assistance, according to documents from a July 15 closed hearing.

Hearing Officer Terry Lukens, a retired judge, concluded Schock's discharge was appropriate, using the eight Hoagland factors that applied under the Vinson case. Lukens also noted that Schock did not submit medical evidence of alcoholism or a plan for treatment.

"Here, Mr. Schock is being disciplined for a single act — arriving at work while intoxicated and interacting with students while in that condition until at least the noon hour," Lukens wrote in the hearing document. "There is no possible remediation of that conduct, unlike a teacher whose proficiency is at issue, where remediation is possible through mentoring and a period of probation."

According to the findings of fact from the hearing, Schock drank at least nine beers at home the night of Feb. 10. He woke up at 6:15 a.m. Feb. 11 and drove to work at 7:30 a.m.

During the noon hour, Assistant Principal Andrea Pfeifer noticed a "strong smell of alcohol on his breath and observed that his eyes were bloodshot and glassy and his speech was a little slow." Schock and a union representative met with the district's assistant general counsel, whom he told he drank three beers.

He consented to two alcohol testings, which returned blood alcohol content measures of .053 and .046 for two tests administered shortly after 2 p.m. A clinical toxicologist subsequently determined Schock's blood alcohol levels at 7:30 a.m. would have been between .14 and .15, nearly twice the legal limit of .08.

Schock was placed on administrative leave Feb. 12, 2013 and given a letter of probable cause for discharge April 3 of the same year.

The Bellevue School District's brief for the upcoming appeal, filed March 14, argued Lukens' final decision should be upheld.

A reply brief from Schock's attorney, filed April 14, contended that the district hadn't proven Schock's intoxication had affected his teaching performance.

"There is no evidence that anyone other than the reporting staff member was even aware that Mr. Schock was intoxicated," the reply brief read. "Mr. Schock himself was unaware that he was still intoxicated from the night before."

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