Saturday, March 10, 2012

TOP STORY >> Gun-toting teacher fired

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville High School teacher arrested in January for inadvertently bringing a gun to the campus may not be prosecuted, but she is appealing the Pulaski County Special School District’s decision to fire her.

English teacher Jennifer Paul, 55, of Jacksonville was charged with possession of a handgun on school property — a class D felony — after a student stole it from her purse. According to the police report, she has a concealed-carry permit and forgot to take the gun out of her purse before going to school.

Paul could get up to six years in the state penitentiary and a fine of up to $10,000 if she is convicted.

The student, whose name will not be released because he is a juvenile, was apprehended quickly and no one was injured.

He was charged with theft, and being a minor in possession of a handgun on school property, and then turned over to the Juvenile Justice Center.

According to the police report, classmates saw him take the gun and conceal it in his waistband. They reported the theft immediately.

Paul appeared in Jacksonville District Court on Jan. 17. Her next court date is April 11.

The state has submitted a motion to voluntarily discontinue criminal charges.

The motion has not been approved or denied.

PCSSD spokeswoman Deborah Roush said Paul was suspended with pay but she didn’t know whether the teacher has received compensation since the termination papers were delivered.

Roush said Paul has requested a hearing to appeal her firing and that will be held on Tuesday.

The human resources office made the recommendation for termination after the department investigated the incident. Superintendent Jerry Guess upheld the recommendation.

Roush said that in this situation teachers appealing such a decision would plead their case before the school board.

Because the state took over PCSSD in June, dissolving the school board and removing the superintendent, state Education Commission Tom Kimbrell appointed a panel for the hearing.

“To make it more fair,” Roush said.

This is the second gun incident at JHS in less than two years.

On Feb. 26, 2012, two shop teachers and a counselor were suspended with pay after a gun was found in the counselor’s car on campus.

Pamela Perez, 53, of Beebe had a concealed-carry license too. There was a .380 handgun in the driver’s-side door pocket of the car and the weapon was visible.

Two 15-year-old students found the gun and reported it to the shop teacher, Wayne Griffin, 39, of Cabot after Perez brought the car to the auto shop for an oil change.

Griffin told another shop teacher, James Poindexter, 38, of Conway, according to the police report.

Poindexter took the gun, removed the seven-round clip and put it in a locked storeroom.

Poindexter told Perez what happened and she made plans to pick up the gun after school.

Then-principal Kenneth Clark heard about the incident and called police. They took the gun, clip and ammunition into their custody.

Perez, Poindexter and Griffin were immediately suspended with pay until the police and the district completed their investigations.

They were not charged with any crime and returned to work.