TACOMA –- Tacoma Public School didn't tell parents that a kindergarten teacher was fired for being drunk in class because officials didn't think a "public shaming" was warranted, a spokesman said Tuesday night.
Dan Voelpel, spokesman for Tacoma Public Schools, was also asked why the district gave the teacher, Karla Bowman, a second chance when she had admitted to being drunk in class a first time, in 2011. At that time, she was required to sign a "last chance" agreement.
“We chose at that time to set up some rigorous standards that she had to meet in order to get back into the classroom and some behaviors to adhere to moving forward. It was a last chance agreement and that worked for a number of years until recently," he said.
Bowman was fired last week for drinking on the job in a Feb. 19 incident. She had a blood-alcohol content of at least .40, according to personnel documents released to Q13 FOX as part of a public-records request Tuesday.
A BAC of .40 is the highest the test will register, and is five times the legal limit to drive in Washington.
Two district patrol officers who searched Bowman’s classroom at Larchmont Elementary school on Feb. 19 said they found an empty bottle of white rum and an empty bottle of wine in the room. The officers said they also found several knives and over-the-counter medications in a low, unlocked drawer in Bowman’s desk.
The documents also show that Bowman’s “last-chance” agreement stemmed from an incident in 2011 in which she admitted to being drunk in her classroom, and that school officials spoke to her in in 2010 and again last October about concerns over her alcohol abuse.
A letter of reprimand shows Bowman registered a BAC of .286 after the 2011 incident.
The school district alleges that Bowman contacted a fellow teacher who was a friend after Bowman was removed from school property, and asked the other teacher to remove two alcohol bottles from the classroom.
The teacher was angry Bowman made the request, and provided screen shots of the texts to the district.
“Well, I was caught,” reads part of one exchange. “I’m an idiot and will likely not step foot into my classroom any time again in the near future. However, I have two bottles that are still stashed in there and I’m so dreading them finding them. Would you be willing to go in my room tomorrow and get them and put them in the garbage!?!”
A later exchange shows Bowman allegedly asking the other teacher to stop talking to the district.
“Please don’t say anymore more to anyone with anything (sic),” it reads. “I know you contacted them. Please don’t say anything more. Again, sorry I said anything. Please. I was told it was worse that I tried to contact a staff member and the only person I’ve contacted is you. Please please please don’t repeat this.”
The district said Bowman didn’t deny the allegations, and that she apologized at a follow-up meeting. She said she entered rehab the week after the incident.
Bowman officially appealed her termination last Thursday, a day after her termination letter was delivered.
The school district sent a letter to parents saying that Bowman would not return to the school, but did not give a reason.
Voelpel said, “While it was clear that the behavior of this former teacher warranted termination because of the exceptional conduct, what wasn’t warranted, we thought, was a public shaming, so we did not notify parents for the reason behind it for that very reason.”