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Friday, June 14, 2013

Ashley Barker: The Elementary Teacher Who Lied Her Way Out of the Classroom

     Ashley Barker started teaching first grade at the Laurel Elementary School in central Florida's Polk County in the fall of 2011. In November, just two months into her first year at the school, Barker began asking, through emails to her principal, for days off due to illness. At first Barker reported a problem with kidney stones, then later that month, informed the principal that she was undergoing a medical treatment for a cyst.

     In January 2012, Barker, via email, informed her boss that due to a brain infection, her body was shutting down. After reporting to the school that she was dying, and probably wouldn't make it through the night, Barker made a remarkable recovery.

     The elementary school teacher's next series of emails requesting paid sick leave involved the declining health of her father. According to Barker, her dad suffered from a heart problem that was life threatening. At one point she reported that he didn't have much time to live. By November 2012, Barker had sent 120 illness related emails to the principal who had authorized 35 days of paid sick leave.

     In January 2013, Barker reported to her principal that one of her fellow teachers had threatened to kill her. (The accused teacher strongly denied the charge.) A week after the accusation, Barker claimed that a man wearing a ski mask had threatened her life if she pursued the case against the other teacher. She said the masked man had ambushed her in the school parking lot.

     Detectives with the Polk County Sheriff's Office investigated Barker's accounts of the threat by the teacher and the masked man, and were unable to confirm, through other witnesses and various leads, that the crimes had taken place. In May 2013, when confronted by skeptical detectives, Barker confessed that she had made up the threats against her life. She also admitted that her requests for sick leave had been based on lies. She was never ill, and her father had not been dying of a bad heart. She had made these stories up to get out of work. (And perhaps to get sympathy and attention.)

     The superintendent of the Polk County School District suspended Ashley Barker without pay. The school administrator also planned to recommend dismissal. Barker has acquired an attorney, and says that if she's fired from the Laurel Elementary School, she will fight the dismissal in court. (It will be interesting to see if the teacher's union backs her case.)

     The Ashley Barker case reveals that in public education, if a teacher wants a day off, all she has to do is claim illness without supporting documentation. Moreover, it shows that public school teachers are hired without extensive background investigations. If Barker ends up keeping her job, we will also learn that public school employees, regardless of their behavior, cannot be fired. 

1 comment:

  1. Most employees can take a day here or there without supporting documentation or without stating a reason. You make sweeping, unfounded generalizations here, that will remain unfounded regardless of this outcome. What you will learn is whether or not there was anything in this woman's background that should or would have shown up on a more extensive background search. We have obviously learned already that this one particular principal did not tequire supporting documentation. We will learn whether or not this malingerer is able to keep her job despite a year's worth if prevarications.
    It is erroneous, ignorant and inflammatory to state we will learn anything about public education, educators or the system as a whole through an anecdotal study of one extremist case.
    For me this calls into question your credentials. A study of criminal science is the study of patterns of behavior over large groups and over sextensive periods of time. It's a study if averages, predictability, statistics. No social scientist would project predictions or indictments or even theories for an entire subset of individuals, linked only by profession, based on the egregious actions of an isolated individual.
    I'm appalled by your bias.

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