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Judge Reverses Warren Schools Termination of Teacher (Monticello Resident), Cleared of Charges

April 23rd, 2012 by

Circuit Judge Sam Pope reversed Warren School Board’s decision to terminate a teacher, Former Warren High School JROTC instructor Col. Robert Avery, saying that the board “was not a fair and impartial tribune in its decision making in this case.”

Col. Robert Avery was charged with first-degree sexual assault in 2009 when a 16 year old female alleged he assaulted her at his residence. Avery was found not guilty by a Drew County jury in October of 2010. His position at Warren High School was terminated.

Judge Pope wrote, “Specifically, the Court finds that the superintendent of the schools, Mr. Tolbert, had brought before the board on at least one or more occasions matters concerning this case in an off-the-record manner and had discussed this case with board members. This is clearly established in the record and exhibits reviewed by the Court and depositions of at least one board member. Mr. Avery was entitled to a fair and impartial tribunal in deciding his termination, and one that only considered the evidence presented at his hearing. He did not get that and the Warren School Board’s actions with regard to his termination are, therefore, void.”

“Additionally the Warren School Board considered evidence that went beyond the notice which was provided to Mr. Avery. Specifically the Court finds that there was nothing in Mr. Avery’s notification of non-renewal which dealt with the fact that he had provided a cell phone to a student, but such was a reason used by the board in its justification in termination and presented by the superintendent at the hearing. “ “The Court finds that consideration and admission of this evidence was prejudicial to Mr. Avery, that he did not have notice of this evidence prior to the hearing, and thus did not have adequate opportunity to prepare and meet this evidence at the time of the hearing. For this additional reason, the Court finds that the Warren School District’s actions in termination Mr. Avery are void.”

Judge Pope also stated that Avery is entitled to full back pay and benefits from the time of his termination to this Court’s decision, which is estimated to be in an amount over $200,000 by Avery’s legal counsel.

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