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The Major's Story

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JROTC Major

In November of 2021, as a result of a cadet’s protest at not being permitted to wear a nose ring in her Army JROTC uniform, the school district directed our JROTC program to permit all facial jewelry in uniform for the remainder of that school year.

 I explained to them that this was not within our authority to do. Army JROTC regulations prohibited the wearing of certain facial jewelry while in uniform. The district directed us to disregard Army regulation. This was an explicit violation of the contract the school district entered into with the Army concerning the running of the Army’s JROTC program. I informed the school district that we would comply with their demand but that I would also have to report this to my Army JROTC headquarters.

Two years prior, I had similarly irked senior district administrators when I informed JROTC parents of the district’s plans to relocate the JROTC program to the new Ozark Innovation Center and shared with parents our concerns about the negative impact this would have on our program. We had already voiced these concerns to the district, but they chose to relocate us anyway. Feeling strongly about the detrimental impact this would have on our cadets (given, among other reasons, that our being as accessible to them as possible – before school, after school, during school – is a key part of the impact we are able to have on them), I discussed with my colleagues what further steps we might take to get the school to take our concerns seriously. We all believed that we had expressed ourselves as clearly as we could to the school and that our only remaining recourse before simply resigning ourselves to the move was to contact parents and invite their input. So I did. District Policy GBCBB, “Protected Staff Communications,” and Missouri Revised Statute § 105.55 both explicitly protect a public employee’s right to contact the public with such concerns about how public organizations are operating. The school district has, itself, taken advantage of this several times to inform district employees of their concerns with pending legislation and to invite us to write our representatives in opposition to it.

"The school district has, itself, taken advantage of this several times to inform district employees of their concerns with pending legislation and to invite us to write our representatives in opposition to it."

After my November 2019 communication to JROTC parents, several of them contacted the district with their opposition to the planned JROTC move. Dr. Bauman, our superintendent, then summoned me before a panel of senior district administrators to reprimand me for having contacted parents. He concluded by warning me that it would be a long time before he would be able to trust me again. I didn’t then recognize that this was him warning me that he was going to get even someday. I was perplexed that he took this so personally, given that it was simply a disagreement about what arrangement was going to provide the best experience for Ozark High School students.

Immediately after my reporting to my Army JROTC boss the district’s violation of its contract with the Army in insisting that we disregard Army regulation concerning facial jewelry for the entirety of the school year, the district served me with a Professional Improvement Plan (PIP).

JROTC-cadets-and-Major

"Dr. Bauman, our superintendent, then summoned me before a panel of senior district administrators to reprimand me for having contacted parents."

The PIP was a farce. I initially regarded it as simply a petty slap in the face in retaliation for having outed them to US Army Cadet Command. But as I reflected more on the outrageously dishonest content of it all, I came to interpret it as the district’s first move in further forthcoming hostilities against me. The content of that Professional Improvement Plan and my detailed response to it (submitted to the school district) can be found at https://www.ozarkteacherabuse.org/professional-improvement-plan/.

A mere nine school days later, the district suspended me, purportedly so that they could investigate allegations raised over a class I taught first-year cadets on how their personal appearance, personal identity, and self-valuation are related. I had taught this class to all first-year cadets every year for several years. A colleague was present for (and generally contributed to) every iteration of the class (generally five classes per year). If the material was objectionable, one of my colleagues would certainly have noted that fact before. It quickly became obvious that the district was not investigating any concerns about the class. They were just looking for grounds to terminate me. Given public interest in my case since my dismissal from teaching at Ozark High School, I have since twice given that same class presentation, precisely as I did to cadets, to nearly three dozen interested community members. Every single one of them affirmed the propriety and importance of the material.

The initial evidence that there was no real investigation taking place arose from the fact that they declined to summon me to answer any of their concerns. In fact, after two weeks of suspension, I requested they bring me in to inform me of their concerns and to allow me to respond to them. They declined, stating that they had more investigating to do before they could talk to me. This is a huge red flag, given that the very first step of most legitimate investigations is to ask the accused about the alleged conduct. The next indication that this “investigation” was a sham is that my daughter, a first-year cadet who was audience to the presentation, informed me that no cadets had been summoned for interview about my presentation. There was plenty of chatter among cadets about my absence but absolutely no reports of ANYONE being interviewed about it. A third indication that no real investigation was intended was that the school’s attorney informed my attorney (whom I retained a week after being suspended, given my certainty that the school was merely retaliating against me) that the district had already decided to end the investigation and give me a Notice of Deficiency. This was barely over a week into their “investigation” and before they ever spoke to me about it. A Notice of Deficiency is the final step required by law before firing a public employee. See also https://www.ozarkteacherabuse.org/bad-faith-investigation/.

"The initial evidence that there was no real investigation taking place arose from the fact that they declined to summon me to answer any of their concerns."

Nearly five weeks after suspending me, the district finally permitted me to come in to hear and answer the charges against me. Mr. Gerald Chambers, executive director of secondary learning (and best friend to Dr. Chris Bauman, the superintendent) informed me that my presentation was sexist. I invited him to point out any evidence of such in my presentation. He could not. So he settled on the district’s objection being that it wasn’t approved curriculum. That is another bogus charge as individual lesson plans and lesson content are NEVER reviewed by the district. In fact, the district has NEVER reviewed any JROTC curriculum. The very next week, Dr. Craig Carson, assistant superintendent of learning, invited me in to encourage me to resign. He informed me that if I did not, I should expect to receive a Notice of Deficiency. He further warned me that during his 18 years as a district administrator, no employee had survived a Notice of Deficiency. They all either resigned or were fired. See https://www.ozarkteacherabuse.org/interview-concerning-class-presentation/ and https://www.ozarkteacherabuse.org/ultimatum/ for more details.

When I was suspended, my notice of suspension banned me from all district properties, and banned me from all school-related functions (whether on campus or off.) Dr. Jeremy Brownfield, the high school principal who served me with the suspension notice, further added verbal restrictions against speaking to any district employee or student in the district. I asked whether I was prohibited from speaking about my case to other members of the community. He assured me that I was not prohibited from doing so. Nonetheless, concerned that grounds for trusting district administrators were rapidly eroding, I emailed him to ask him to confirm in writing that I was not under any verbal order not to talk about my case. He declined to respond to my first two requests. Finally, after my third appeal, he responded, placing me under a strict gag order that forbade my talking about the case with anyone other than my attorney and immediate family members. Both the initial prohibition against having any dialogue whatsoever with any district employee or student exceeds the school’s authority. The subsequent prohibition against talking about my case to friends and supporters likewise exceeds the school’s authority. Moreover, it is a specific violation of both state statute and District policy which prohibit gag orders about such matters.

When a Missouri State Teachers Association representative accompanied me to my aforementioned meeting with Dr. Carson, she noted that gag orders commonly prohibit employees from talking about their case with other employees and students but never prohibit all contact with employees and students (especially those not in my class) and never prohibit talking about the case with friends and supporters.
See https://www.ozarkteacherabuse.org/gag-order/ for more details.

"Moreover, it is a specific violation of both state statute and District policy which prohibit gag orders about such matters."

Many weeks after I was interviewed about my presentation and pressured to resign, I was finally given the promised Notice of Deficiency (NOD). It was full of outright lies and outrageous distortions of truth. When I protested multiple times that certain charges were so absurd that I didn’t have any idea what they were talking about, Mr. Gerald Chambers simply responded “it doesn’t matter.” The NOD included forewarnings about the consequences of failing to meet the district’s expectations in numerous ambiguous standards, including.

  • Act professionally, ethically, and responsibly; use good judgment; maintain positive relations with students, parents, coworkers and the public
  • Properly supervise students
  • Communicate clearly and professionally
  • Obey all safety rules
  • Do not direct a student to remove any item of clothing or accessory
  • Do not use any visual material that is obscene or harmful to minors

Given the ambiguity here and the obvious lack of integrity in the entire “investigation” and prosecution of charges, I specifically asked Mr. Chambers whether I should interpret the NOD to mean that if I did ANYTHING the district didn’t like in the future, I should expect that they would characterize that as “unprofessional” and then fire me. He affirmed that I should expect exactly that.

The Notice of Deficiency is every bit as absurd as was the Professional Improvement Plan. Of the 13 charges in the NOD, several of them frame right action as having been wrong action, such as when JROTC instructors dismissed a cadet from JROTC summer camp for smuggling contraband and threatening other cadets.

Several charges allege impropriety that was never raised before or that was investigated and dismissed, such as the claim – without any other context – that I once called an unspecified student “stupid.” Some of them simply deny reality, such as claiming that I changed Army JROTC uniform policy when what I really did was insist that we NOT change Army JROTC uniform policy that we lacked the authority to change. Some of them involve issues that were resolved at the time to the complete satisfaction of all parties concerned, such as Raider cadets’ rolling out their muscles in the fitness room before Raider practice.

One of them pertains to a comment a colleague made to a cadet, a comment which the district took out of context and which I wasn’t even aware of; they were claiming I insulted this cadet. (This allegation grows even more preposterous when you realize that the cadet in question was my own daughter. They didn’t realize this. And it wasn’t an insult; it was a joke SHE initiated. And it wasn’t me. I knew nothing about the conversation.) Two of them relate to a singular miscommunication that was fully remedied as soon as we understood the district’s intent. They presented this as two separate offenses in an effort to lengthen their list of complaints against me. Perhaps the most ridiculous element of the NOD is that their 12th charge against me is that I received a Professional Improvement Plan, as if this was a unique charge from charges 6-10 that already had reasserted EVERYTHING in the professional improvement plan. That is, after re-charging me with each of the individual bogus charges from my PIP, they now acted as if the fact that they charged me with those was itself an additional failing on my part. This is the exact equivalent of their saying 1) you did something wrong, and 2) we just accused you of doing something wrong; so now you are guilty of two things: the mistake itself and our charging you with that mistake. For the specific charges in my Notice of Deficiency and my thorough rebuttal of each, see https://www.ozarkteacherabuse.org/notice-of-deficiency/.

"Several charges allege impropriety that was never raised before or that was investigated and dismissed, such as the claim – without any other context – that I once called an unspecified student “stupid.”"

Both my initial gag order and restrictions imposed in my subsequent Notice of Deficiency severely exceed the school district’s authority. Whereas the former forbade me to have any dialogue with any employees or students within the school district, and forbade me from discussing my case with friends and supporters, the latter prohibited me from engaging in “any other extra-curricular activities, whether school-sponsored or non-school-sponsored, with students of the District.” This means I was forbidden to coach youth sports in the community, prohibited from serving youth in local Boy Scout troops, prohibited from teaching children or youth Sunday School classes, etc. Those activities and interactions clearly lie well beyond the school’s purview.

The 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee due process of law before the government deprives anyone of life, liberty, or property. This means, among other things, that public employees cannot be fired (i.e., deprived of property, since courts have interpreted employment as property) without due process. The Ozark School District, however, regards due process as something that is only owed if you are to be fired. They therefore make every effort to browbeat employees to resign rather than be fired. They engage in robust retaliation, intimidation, and harassment schemes to try to ensure that it is more troublesome to remain employed in the Ozark School District than to depart. They thus hope to evade charges of violating due process.

"They engage in robust retaliation, intimidation, and harassment schemes to try to ensure that it is more troublesome to remain employed in the Ozark School District than to depart."

Regardless of whether one ultimately resigns under pressure, the requirement for due process ALREADY existed. It is ALREADY a Constitutional right whether or not the employee ultimately resigns, is fired, or is exonerated. In fact, the very concept of due process is supposed to ensure that people are NOT wrongfully terminated in the first place. As alluded to previously, everything about the alleged “investigation” was a sham. There was no investigation. The district was simply creating a series of data points they could subsequently use to fire me. Every basic principle of due process was ignored or outright denied in my case. Again, it is critical to understand that whether I ultimately resigned or was fired is irrelevant. Due process is owed either way, as a means of preventing people from having to make the choice the district continually imposes on disfavored employees. For a detailed account of how due process was violated, see https://www.ozarkteacherabuse.org/denial-of-due-process/ .

As it became clear that I could not expect any integrity from district administrators, I appealed to the board of education to review my case. Board Policy BBA: SCHOOL BOARD POWERS AND DUTIES specifies one of their responsibilities as “acting as a court of appeals for the professional and support staff members.” Unfortunately, I found no prospect of relief through the school board. Superintendent Bauman first refused me access to them. Board policy requires that those who want to address the board must arrange to do so through the superintendent. It does not give him authority to deny or ignore those requests. Nevertheless, he denied some of my requests and simply declined to respond to other ones. I was never permitted to appear before the board. When I began appealing to board members directly, they too ignored my requests.

"Unfortunately, I found no prospect of relief through the school board. Superintendent Bauman first refused me access to them."

The only reaction I ever received from the school board was:

  • Their acknowledgement of my resignation and their renewal of my suspension which had just two days prior been announced as ending that week.
  • A request that I sign a consent to disclose so that they could start slandering me publicly.
  • A declaration that they will never speak with me, in any form or forum, about any aspect of my case.
  • An explanation that the legally required hearing I had been demanding the district hold on my case but which the district refused to hold had actually been held (amongst themselves; without my knowledge, presence, or participation).

Such contemptuous behavior from both district administrators and the school board has become the norm for any targeted employee. For example, when I requested that the district share with me the slanderous information they had shared with the school board about me, the district refused. What right, after all, do I have to misinformation they are spreading about me? While certain district officials are quite attached to their professional titles, they promptly stripped away mine in all communication with me, addressing me with the title of “Mr.” in place of the previous title of “Major” (This is insignificant to me but is a humorous display of their pettiness.) The district even withheld my final paycheck from me, supposing that I was powerless to compel them to pay. To clarify, the way Army JROTC instructor contracts work at most schools, the instructors’ pay increases in January (middle of the school teaching contract). Schools postpone catching up the instructors’ accounts until the last paycheck of that teaching contract. They simply declined to catch mine up this year.

This recounting here is just the “tip of the iceberg” for my experience with the Ozark School District. Click below to read a more detailed account.

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