Young rehired for 2013-14 year

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Board of Education members voted unanimously Tuesday to approve Jesse Young be rehired for next year.

Officials spent hours Tuesday night deliberating the fate of the teacher’s Wood County career before reaching a 4-0 decision just before 11:30 p.m. Board member Tim Yeater was absent.

Superintendent Pat Law said board members came out and voted to approve the recommendation to rehire Young for next year. Board members took testimony from nine individuals Tuesday, including Law and Young. Dozens of Young’s supporters were in attendance at the standing-room-only meeting.

“A lot of people were happy,” Law said.

Board members heard two hours of testimony and were in executive session for more than an hour and half trying to decide the fate of Young’s Wood County teaching career. Young, the physical education teacher involved in the Harlem Shake video filmed in class at Parkersburg High School, was seeking to be rehired by school officials for next year. He was one of three teachers not offered a contract by officials for next year.

Young was reinstated to the classroom Monday after being suspended March 7.

Attorney Richard Boothby, of Bowles Rice, representing the board, said board members can decide if Law’s decision is “reasonable or arbitrary and capricious.”

Young and his attorney Joe McFarland stipulated to mistakes with the incident and were willing to accept a corrective action plan. Young told board members the video was intended to be fun and bring the class together. He desperately wants to retain his job.

Law testified and was questioned by Boothby. Law was asked by Boothby if, in his 40 years of educational service, he was familiar with a teacher taking his pants off in class, a teacher pulling down a student’s pants, or doing pelvic thrusts.

Law said no.

Citing a previous grievance hearing Boothby stated Young testified if he had seen what students were doing he would have intervened. Law said he did not find that to be a credible answer. Boothby noted that part of Young’s job duties include supervision of children.

“The behavior in the video and what was being allowed to take place violated the code of conduct,” Law said.

McFarland admitted students did not act appropriately for a school environments but said Young did not encourage these acts. He said the acts were “spontaneous and without planning.”

“He should not be excluded because of their conduct,” McFarland said.

McFarland said the reasons given by the administration aren’t accurate and were reached without an investigation.

“The decision was made without investigation and factual consideration.”

Law said once Young was identified in the video he had enough evidence the incident violated the employee code of conduct.

Young requested an opening hearing before the board and school system officials complied-for the most part.

Boothby advised board members the video would have to be viewed privately because the school system could not disseminate images of the students involved. Board member Jim Fox agreed, over the objections of the News and Sentinel, which noted the video was shared over a number of social media sites accessible to the public.

Boothby interrupted, stating the News and Sentinel was out of order and not part of the proceeding. Fox noted the news media covers public meetings and the BOE considers its objections. Officials raised no issues later when students who claimed to be in the video were called to testify.

Three students who claimed to have participated in the video also testified along with a number of current and former teachers, including Joe Smith, who went behind closed doors with officials.

Young was the last to testify. He admitted to mistakes with the idea and said he was uncomfortable watching the video.

“I wouldn’t encourage those type of activities,” Young said. “I realize what the video looks like. I don’t like to watch it. It does make me a little sick. I am very sorry it did happen and apologize it happened under my watch.”

Young said the video was a giant fad and seemed doable as something that could be done in class. “They came to me with the idea and it took off.”

Young said he was participating and not watching the kids.

Had he seen what was going on, Young said he would have stopped things and reprimanded kids. He wanted to remain employed in the school system.

“We take a great leap of faith our employees are exhibiting good judgment and we have a responsibility to address those lapses,” Fox said.