PEPPER PIKE — The Orange Board of Education unanimously voted to move into termination proceedings for Michael Klubnik, a science teacher at Orange High School, on the grounds of alleged improper conduct with students. The resolution to suspend his contract without pay or benefits was effective at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.
“When the board acted and approved the resolution to move forward with termination proceedings, that’s a suspension without pay or benefits pending the outcome of those proceedings,” Superintendent Lynn Campbell said on Tuesday.
The resolution details the allegations and termination proceedings. On Jan. 27, a female student made several allegations against Mr. Klubnik. She said that he rubbed her shoulders and the shoulders of another male student who was sitting next to her, according to the resolution. The teacher rubbed her shoulders and the other student’s shoulders a second time, the document states. When he came back a third time, she told him to stop and he did, according to the resolution that the school board passed on Monday.
The same female student said that Mr. Klubnik touched the small of her back while leaning over to help her with a question on her computer, according to the document. It also states that Mr. Klubnik called the female student “honey” and told her that she looks like his wife when his wife was younger. The student also said that Mr. Klubnik invaded her personal space, according to the resolution, and told her that she looked good on a day when she was wearing a short skirt and a top with thin straps.
The student told the head of the school’s guidance office, then one of the two high school assistant principals spoke with the student’s mother, according to the resolution. The two assistant principals are Jasmine Ferguson and Stephen Hardaway. The mother was aware of the incidents, according to the resolution, and the school launched an investigation.
Orange schools’ Director of Human Resources Judy Robinson served as the district’s compliance officer, Dr. Campbell said. She interviewed both students involved and others, guidance counselors, an assistant principal, the principal [Paul Lucas], school resource officer [Todd Bennett], a teacher’s aide and Mr. Klubnik, the resolution states.
“In the judgment of the board, the character of the conduct described above warrants immediate suspension,” the resolution states.
The teacher denied rubbing either student’s shoulders and denied that he touched the female student on the small of her back, according to the resolution. He said that he did tell the female student that she looked like his wife, the resolution states, but he said that it was a way to find a commonality at the start of the school year.
Mr. Klubnik also said that he did call the student “honey” but explained that he uses that term “all of the time,” including with staff members, the BOE document states. In the resolution, he denied invading the female student’s personal space and commenting on her outfit. Mr. Klubnik said that the female student came to his desk to talk every morning and described her as “friendly, exuberant and bubbly,” according to the resolution.
Ms. Robinson determined that Mr. Klubnik was “initiating unwanted physical contact” that “has sexual overtones” and “has the effect of creating discomfort and/or humiliation to another” person, the resolution states. It said that his manner with the female student “may give the appearance of impropriety.” Ms. Robinson recommended to Dr. Campbell that the teacher be disciplined.
Dr. Campbell held a pre-disciplinary hearing with Mr. Klubnik on March 3 when the teacher was told of the student’s allegations. According to the resolution, this hearing was also an opportunity for the teacher to present any information that he wanted the superintendent to consider. Dr. Campbell determined that he would recommend Mr. Klubnik for termination and met with him again on April 9 to provide another opportunity for him to share any additional information, the resolution states. The teacher was represented by counsel at this time.
There were similar concerns raised in 2016 about Mr. Klubnik’s relationship with another student. He was found alone with a female student in a classroom with the door closed and the lights off, according to school documents. He was observed kissing the student on the head at a track meet, he hugged the student in the attendance office and several emails from him suggested that she could be a model, according to the resolution.
The resolution states that at that time, Mr. Klubnik was given a formal written reprimand advising him to avoid fraternizing with individual students, refrain from touching other students and staff at work and discussing personal topics and to have no contact with the student involved in the 2016 allegations.
“Any further incidents will result in discipline, up to and including, termination;” according to the resolution.
Dr. Campbell said that following the board’s decision on Monday to begin termination proceedings for Mr. Klubnik, the employee has a right to request a hearing to challenge the board’s decision. If such a hearing is held, there will be another recommendation in regard to termination following the hearing. According to the resolution, the treasurer will send the teacher written notice that the board voted to begin termination proceedings and Mr. Klubnik may file a written demand within 10 days for a hearing.