N.D. Supreme Court upholds teacher’s firingBISMARCK — North Dakota’s Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of a Grand Forks middle school teacher for unprofessional conduct, including incidents in which he described a black student as “chocolate one” and shouted at one class, “To hell with all of you!”
By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — North Dakota’s Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of a Grand Forks middle school teacher for unprofessional conduct, including incidents in which he described a black student as “chocolate one” and shouted at one class, “To hell with all of you!”
Cornell Kilber, a technology education instructor, argued that a hearing on whether he should be fired was not conducted properly and some school board members who supported his dismissal may have been influenced by outside gossip. The Grand Forks school board sacked Kilber in November 2010 after holding a hearing on whether his teaching contract should be renewed.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling made public Thursday, rejected Kilber’s claims.
“Kilber’s discharge is supported by the record, (and) we conclude that Kilber was not denied a fair hearing,” the court said in its opinion, written by Justice Mary Muehlen Maring.
Kilber’s attorney, Mike Geiermann, of Bismarck, declined comment Friday.
Kilber had worked in the Grand Forks school system for 20 years, court documents say.
A school assistant principal, Mary Koopman, worked with Kilber for seven years to try to help him avoid outbursts and insulting exchanges with students, court filings indicate.
In one conversation with an eighth-grader, Kilber told the girl she needed to lose weight “and proceeded to talk about skinny Ethiopian women,” Koopman said. Kilber was remorseful later and said he was “just trying to be funny,” the administrator said.
One teacher’s aide said she twice had to remove one student who required special instruction from Kilber’s class because Kilber was “demeaning to his students, including calling one student stupid,” the Supreme Court’s opinion says.
Kilber referred to all Muslims as being terrorists, harassed a student after the student’s parents complained about him, and referred to a black girl as a “chocolate one” that bears would like to eat, according to the court’s opinion.
Ken Schill, a former principal at Schroeder Middle School in Grand Forks, said he observed Kilber coming out of his classroom in May 2005 loudly saying, “To hell with all of you!”
At Kilber’s dismissal hearing, Schill said he “remembered this incident because in his 40 years in education, he had never heard a teacher speak to his students in that way,” the Supreme Court’s opinion says.
Koopman said during the hearing she could not defend Kilber’s continued presence.
“I believe that his actions are emotionally damaging to my students and that he’s shown a pattern over the years of that damage, and that he’s unable or unwilling to correct the behavior,” she said.