A middle school teacher in Catoosa, Oklahoma was fired for stacking 11 students into her car — including two in her trunk — during an unauthorized off-campus trip she said was intended as a friendly gesture, KJRH-TV reported.
The local school board terminated Heather Cagle’s employment at Wells Middle School in a 4-1 vote last week in connection with the incident this past October. Security footage showed the children getting into her car to drive to a local Walmart a mile away from the school to pick up some snacks.
“I didn’t want to hurt anyone,” Cagle told the board. “I just wanted to do something nice.”
Cagle worked at the school for 10 years, teaching math, coaching the cheerleading squad, and serving as advisor for the Wells yearbook staff. She admitted that it was a mistake for her to drive to the store with two students in the trunk, two in the passenger seat, and seven more in the back seat. Some of the students lay down on the vehicle’s floor during the short trip.
She also admitted that she broke school rules requiring the students’ parents to sign forms approving the off-campus activity. Cagle was suspended after a parent filed a police report in connection with the incident.
“In the end, the board was concerned that parents, grandparents, guardians send their kids to school every day with an expectation that they will receive education benefit during every course that they attend,” the school district’s attorney, Karen Long, told the Tulsa World. “No parent or grandparent or guardian should ever expect that any teacher, particularly not an experienced teacher, will take their children off campus in the trunk of a personal vehicle.”
Cagle’s attorney, Richard O’Carroll, said during the meeting that she only violated a local ordinance because the students did not wear seat belts during the excursion. He also called the board’s decision “cowardly.”
“There is no question she is an exceptional teacher. In my opinion, she will land on her feet, and it’s going to be Catoosa’s loss.”
Watch KJRH’s report, as posted online, below.