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13 N.J.A.R. 297

Tyler, Lynn Jenisch; In the Matter of the Tenure Hearing of
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Citation: 13 N.J.A.R. 297
Decision Date: 1987
Synopsis: Charges of unbecoming conduct were certified against petitioner, a tenured teacher, alleging that she inflicted corporal punishment on her students. The matter was transmitted to the Office of Adminis- trative Law for a hearing. During the hearing, the administrative law judge declined to hear testimony by a Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) in- vestigator describing interviews with the students. Upon review of the judge's initial decision, the Commissioner of Education remanded the case, directing the judge to consider the excluded evidence. After hearing the DYFS investigator's testimony, the administrative law judge issued a second initial decision which, like the first, found petitioner guilty of two charges of unbecoming conduct and rec- ommended a monetary penalty rather than dismissal. The Com- missioner of Education adopted this initial decision but, based on the DYFS investigator's testimony, found the teacher guilty on an ad- ditional charge. The Commissioner concluded that petitioner had inflicted corporal punishment in violation of N.J.S.,4. 18A:6-1 and that dismissal was warranted. On appeal, the State Board reversed the Commissioner's decision because it was based on the DYFS report and such reliance violated N.J.S.,4. 9:6-8.10a. That statute requires information about child abuse obtained by DYFS to be kept confidential except in nine cir- cumstances which are enumerated in the statute. One of the exceptions permits disclosure to a court, but that did not apply to administrative In re Tyler forums. The OAL and the Commissioner of Education are not courts and may not order disclosure of DYFS child abuse records. Regarding penalty, the State Board agreed with the administrative law judge that dismissal was too harsh considering petitioner's 20 years of service and the nature of the incidents. While petitioner's actions did not rise to the level of corporal punishment and were not premeditated, she had failed to exercise proper restraint. The monetary penalty rec- ommended by the administrative law judge was increased to forfeiture of six months' salary and loss of increments for two years. The Appellate Division affirmed the State Board. R. Webb Leonard, Esq., for petitioner (Busche, Clark & Leonard, P.C., attorneys) Sheldon H. Pincus, Esq., for respondent (Bucceri and Pincus, at- torneys)
Statute(s) Cited: 9:6-8.10a