DES MOINES, Iowa – A kindergarten teacher in Iowa faces criminal charges after she was allegedly busted swigging beers during a Valentine’s Day party with parents and students in her classroom.
A parent who came to help out at Jennifer L. Rich’s kindergarten Valentine’s Day party complained to East Elementary School officials that the teacher was drinking beer in the classroom, The Des Moines Register reports.
School officials called the Ankeny Police Department, and officers administered a blood-alcohol test and searched the teacher’s classroom, where they allegedly discovered two empty beer cans and four full cans in Rich’s leather carry bag.
“Students and parents were inside Rich’s classroom for a Valentine’s Day party at the time of the incident, said Jenifer Owenson, chief human resources officer for the district,” according to the news site.
“Owenson said a substitute teacher was put in place when Rich was asked to leave the classroom.”
And she likely won’t be back.
Rich submitted her resignation Monday, and the school board approved the move the same day, the Register reports.
Rich, a teacher in the district since 2001, had no prior disciplinary issues at the school, complaints from parents, or criminal history. Police did not reveal the teacher’s blood-alcohol level, nor the brand of alcohol the teacher allegedly consumed.
Police took Rich into custody at the school based on the “positive” preliminary breath test and her allegedly blood-shot and watery eyes, then charged the teacher with public intoxication and child endangerment, according to the news site.
“We thoroughly investigate any report that raises a concern about the conduct of a staff member,” East Elementary School Principal Julianne Taylor told parents at Monday’s school board meeting, KCCI reports. “Our students are our first priority.”
Taylor also called parents over the weekend to inform them of Rich’s arrest and that a long-term substitute will take over her duties, according to the paper.
Rich was released from police custody shortly after her arrest.
Several parents who commented about the teacher’s arrest believed that the potential punishment is somewhat excessive for two beers.
“They sell beer at Chuck E. Cheese people,” sadsociety posted. “I wonder how many parents endanger their children on a weekly basis. How many parents go camping and drink a couple of beers with children present. Yes, what she did is completely unprofessional, (but she) shouldn’t lose her teaching license if she gets help.”
“I’m sorry, child endangerment?” babybunny77 questioned. “Seriously? How were any children’s lives endangered? That’s ridiculous!!”
Other parents believe Rich deserves whatever punishment she receives.
“She is not at 100% functionality, She is in charge of children, children who aren’t her own,” acb550 posted to KCCI. “I am both a parent and a teacher. Endangerment is true. I hold her accountable for her choices, not her alcoholism if she is an alcoholic.
“She can drink whenever she wants as long as it affects only her. It’s no different than getting behind a wheel drunk. This time it’s children who are potential victims,” acb550 added.
Maria Gedler Calhoun believes that regardless of how severe the violation, Rich is a good person who made a mistake.
“I know this person and can’t think of a more loving and devoted mom and teacher,” Calhoun posted. “She isn’t perfect but none of us are. Hopefully she will learn from this and be able to turn it into some good one day. Thankfully no child was put into danger and all are safe.
“Please pray for her that she gets the help she needs, she truly is a good person.”