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Referee: District has 'just cause' to fire teacher accused of racial remarks

TNS Regional News • Apr 20, 2014 at 8:07 PM

A referee appointed by the Ohio Department of Education has ruled that Fairfield City Schools has “good and just cause” to proceed with the termination of teacher Gil Voigt, who was accused of telling a student, “We don’t need another black president.”

Meanwhile, Voigt, 60, has decided not to fight the decision, telling the Journal-News that he intends to resign.

The decision, released Thursday by the district, states that Voigt “repeatedly engaged in conduct that is harmful to the well-being of his students. He has made race-based, culturally based and insulting comments to students over a period of years. He was warned on multiple occasions that if his behavior continued, that he would be subject to termination. Unfortunately, for both Voigt and his students, he did not alter his conduct.”

The decision was written by Gregory Page, a referee who presided over a three-day hearing on Voigt’s case.

Voigt, a science teacher who has worked with Fairfield Schools since 2000, denied any wrongdoing on his part, either in this incident, or in four prior infractions with the district. Two of those instances involved making “inappropriate comments” to students.

He had intended to fight any decision not in his favor but changed his mind after consulting with attorneys, he told the Journal-News.

While Voigt maintains he did nothing wrong, and that he was “disappointed” with the decision, he said attorneys advised him he would be unlikely to win an appeal.

“Those attorneys felt I had about a 2-in-10 chance of reversing the referee’s decision. Seeing the odds were not in my favor, Fairfield, happily enough, was able to work out a good separation agreement with me. I think it’s time to start enjoying some of that nice retirement money that I paid into for 30 years,” Voigt said.

Voigt’s 2013-14 contract stipulates a salary of $73,566.

The teacher said the district would agree to pay him for sick days and to release holds on his unemployment money, but back pay is not included. Voigt said the agreement would allow him to pursue teaching at another school district, “which won’t have any trailing negativity.”

Despite the entire controversy, Voigt sounded a conciliatory note toward the district, saying he supports the district’s $61 million bond issue to construct three new buildings. That issue goes before voters a second time on May 6. Voigt taught at Fairfield Freshman School, one of the buildings targeted for demolition.

“I appreciate Fairfield giving me the opportunity to be in their school district for 14 years. I’ve enjoyed working with the students and faculty members of Fairfield City Schools. I wish them all the best of luck. I hope they get their bond issue passed next month. I want to leave on a positive note with the school district,” Voigt said.

“Obviously, we’re pleased with the decision that has been made here,” Board President Jerome Kearns said Thursday.

Superintendent Paul Otten added: “We do, however, recognize that the board of education must consider all facts presented at the hearing, as well as the referee’s ruling, before making a final determination about Mr. Voigt’s employment status with the district.”

The board of education suspended Voigt without pay after the December incident. The board had a regular meeting scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Fairfield High School.


By Eric Robinette - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

Visit the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) at www.daytondailynews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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