Tennessee teacher loses her job after taking ill student to hospital and paying her medical bill

By Travis Gettys
Wednesday, April 2, 2014 12:10 EDT
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Jennifer Mitts
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A Tennessee teacher says she lost her job after taking an ill student to an emergency room and paying the bill.

Jennifer Mitts said school officials forced her to resign from her job at Red Bank High School after taking the 20-year-old student for hospital treatment.

Mitts said officials told her what to write in the letter of resignation and forced her to waive her right to a hearing, but school administrators said she chose to resign after she was threatened March 14 with suspension.

“They told me that before I made up my mind, if I’m fired, I’ll never work as a teacher ever again,” Mitts said. “They also said if I resign I could teach in other counties, but not Hamilton County, and still be able to salvage my teaching career.”

Officials said the 43-year-old Mitts had been in trouble for similar violations in the past.

WDEF-TV reported that Mitts had received several warnings, reprimands, and a five-day suspension for previous incidents and had been warned not to take students off campus.

“It’s a liability issue,” said Stacey Stewart, assistant superintendent of human resources for Hamilton County School District. “It’s an issue of insubordination after doing something you were officially warned not to do and doing it again.”

She said Mitts was never asked to waive her due process rights, but the former teacher disputes the administrator’s claims.

“I was not offered a suspension,” she said. “That is a total lie – fabrication.”

The English teacher agrees she’d been warned about taking students to the doctor after an incident last year, but she thought the recent situation was different because the student was a legal adult and she believed her life was in danger.

The student started school late because she’s from another country and wishes to complete her high school diploma, Mitts said.

“I actually wasn’t even going to be the one to take her to the doctor,” Mitts said. “Another teacher told me about the situation and said the school nurse thinks she has pneumonia, and I think we need to take her to the doctor.”

She told the other teacher she would take the student, and she used her own money to pay the young women’s medical bill.

“I didn’t mind paying for it,” Mitts said. “It was less than $100. I don’t have any kids, so I spend my money on my students.”

An online petition to reinstate Mitts, who taught at the school for eight years, has gathered more than 100 signatures, but the teacher doubts she would return, if allowed, over workplace hostility concerns.

She’s looking for another teaching job in the Hamilton County area.

Watch this video report posted online by WDEF-TV:

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