Originally created 12/10/97

Board to re-examine firing decision



AIKEN -- The Aiken County Board of Education will have to re-examine its decision to fire a Midland Valley High School teacher, who they say waited too long to report a sexual incident by students on a field trip.

Special Circuit Judge Robert Smoak issued an order Tuesday for the board members to hold a hearing for the limited purpose of hearing testimony on what evidence they used in reaching the decision to fire Tina Durham.

Mrs. Durham's attorney, Jay Bender, filed a motion in October requesting additional testimony from board members before Judge Smoak rules on a motion from the board to dismiss his client's complaint.

He argued that the board improperly considered information never brought up at the public hearing as requested by his client. As a result, Mr. Bender said Mrs. Durham never had a chance to respond to the full charges the board looked at in making its decision.

Board member Sheran Proctor said she expected to get information about the judge's order at Tuesday's board meeting.

"I'm surprised it's coming back to the board," she said. "I thought it would be decided in court."

Board members Inease Williamson and Art Hadden declined to comment.

The board voted 6-2 in June, immediately following the public hearing, to uphold a recommendation by Warren Whitson, principal of Midland Valley High School, to dismiss Mrs. Durham. She was accused of being too slow in reporting the sexual incident of two students on a Distributive Education Club field trip to Charleston.

The 17-year marketing teacher said she delayed in reporting because she wanted to verify the story first.

Ms. Proctor and Charles Reames were the only board members to vote against the dismissal.

Mrs. Durham filed an appeal of the board's decision with the Aiken County Court of Common Pleas on July 3.