JASON RANTZ

Ballard teacher ‘abandoned’ students on field trip, keeps his job

Jul 14, 2016, 6:00 AM | Updated: 5:02 pm
Ballard teacher, school...
A teacher at Ballard High School was suspended for his actions during a field trip to Deception Pass. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

Want more Jason Rantz? Listen on-demand to his show on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM every weeknight at 7 p.m. Go behind the scenes on Facebook and subscribe to his podcast.

UPDATE: Seattle Public Schools is now answering some of the general questions we’ve asked concerning how often Dr. Nyland overturns recommendations. Through their communications department, they’ve told us the following

  1. Superintendent Nyland personally reviews every case that results in a suspension or termination of a certified staff member.
  2. The specific facts of each case, as well as prior discipline, similar cases, and the perspectives of Executive Directors of Schools, the principal, and legal counsel are considered.
  3. Dr. Nyland also provides the employee facing disciplinary action with an opportunity to meet in person with him so that they, usually accompanied by their union representative, can explain certain facts to him and express a desired outcome.
  4. During this process, Dr. Nyland may learn of facts or information that influences the final outcome, such as a staff members’ willingness to change his or her behavior or willingness to obtain counseling.
  5. Superintendent Nyland takes his role and responsibility in these cases very seriously and makes every effort to make sure staff are treated fairly, equitably, and with an opportunity to change behaviors, yet at the same time balancing the need to set standards and enforce rules so that students, families, and other staff are protected.

–Original story–

A Ballard High School teacher remains on the job, even after an investigation found he “abandoned” high school students on an overnight field trip with no one but one of the student’s 19-year-old boyfriend.

Why did he leave them? So he could attend a Seattle teacher’s union protest.

Even though the Seattle Public School District recommended Noam Gundle be fired for conduct that put these students “at great risk…,” Seattle Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland imposed just a 10-day unpaid suspension (later downgraded to a seven-day suspension) and he won’t explain why. Meanwhile, Gundle still has his job.

Related: Seattle teacher fired for drinking on field trip returns

Gundle took students on a two-night trip to Deception Pass for his Oceanography class on May 17, 2015. Gundle explained to his students prior to the field trip that it would be cut from two nights to one night so he could attend the SEA Walk Out union protest.

While the majority of his students left with him and other chaperones after the one night, Gundle allowed five students to remain at the campsite without approved adult supervision, nor permission from all the student’s parents. In fact, the only adult around was one student’s 19-year-old boyfriend. This raised serious safety and judgment concerns according to the investigative documents.

Gundle, who is active in supporting union causes, justified his decision by telling the school:

Just as I am not responsible for students and their behavior when the [sic] leave school, I am not responsible for their actions after they leave my care. It was clear that when left, they were no longer in my care. Their parents were aware, they gave permission and the field trip was over.

Actually, it wasn’t clear. The investigation reveals Gundle did not commit to the legwork necessary to allow for this kind of unchaperoned overnight trip.

The exhaustive investigation found that he “made no official announcement before he departed [the field trip] and never indicated that the field trip was officially over.”

Further, in his written statement to the school, he claimed he “received permission from each student’s parent for the student to spend the extra night.” This was absolutely not true, according to the investigation, and even if it were, he did not have the schools’ permission to leave the students to spend an extra night without a chaperone. Further, the district found he didn’t even know how the students who spent the extra night would get home from the field trip.

Gundle admitted he doesn’t remember speaking with one of the parents, but said he “…remembered that [the student] told him that her mother said it was okay.” The investigation found he did not have parental permission for this student.

In fact, the night before the scheduled field trip, the investigation found one mother emailed Gundle to explain it would be inappropriate for him to cut short a class activity so he might attend a union protest.

Gundle admits he didn’t read the email until four days later. He did, however, reply telling her that the students weren’t missing that much with his decision to cut the field trip short.

This is not where Gundle’s rule violations ended. The investigation found:

  1. Gundle did not properly list all the trip’s chaperones with the school
  2. He allowed student drivers to transport classmates to Deception Pass without permission from the school nor the parents;
  3. He allowed two students to drive on their own to Deception Pass, without school permission nor parental consent (one student did not have access to a seatbelt in the car);
  4. He did not obtain permission from the school to leave the students behind.

Days after the field trip, on May 22, Gundle was placed on paid administrative leave as the district investigated.

On June 18, 2015, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Dr. Brent C. Jones wrote to Gundle to explain that the recommendation from the district that “there is probable cause to terminate your employment as a teacher for abandoning students during a District sponsored overnight field trip.”

Gundle fought the recommendation with the help of his union representative, arguing the termination was too harsh. After meeting with Superintendent Nyland, Gundle successfully lobbied to avoid termination, instead earning just a 10-day suspension without pay. He was also told he couldn’t host overnight field trips for two years, nor day field trips for one year.

This light punishment raises significant questions. If Nyland believes Gundle’s actions put the students’ safety at great risk, and the district’s HR department recommended termination, how did the punishment get reduced so dramatically?

Nyland isn’t answering any questions.

After a protracted back-and-forth, Seattle Public Schools’ only comment is: “Seattle Public Schools cannot comment on personnel issues.” When asked how often recommendations are overturned by Nyland, the district refused to answer, instead referring to their previous statement.

Gundle, similarly, did not respond for comment after multiple attempts to reach him.

But we know this: according to the district’s own investigation, Gundle put students’ safety at great risk, but he’s still teaching and will soon be able to take students on field trips once again.

Listen to KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Show Thursday at 7 p.m. for more details on the investigation.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-6pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

Jason Rantz Show

Jason Rantz

seattle police, traffic stops...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: New equity policy bars Seattle Police from some traffic stops, opens door to more car theft

Seattle Police are now barred from many non-criminal traffic stops after activists claimed concerns over equity.
2 days ago
Sheriff Fortney...
KTTH staff

Snohomish County Sheriff Fortney will run for re-election after failed recall effort

After a failed recall effort against him last year, Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney says he will run for office again in 2023.
3 days ago
MultiCare hospitals...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: MultiCare hospitals order symptomatic COVID-positive staff to see patients

MultiCare Health Systems is forcing COVID-positive staff to work at its area hospitals, the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH has learned.
4 days ago
Redistricting ,senator...
KTTH staff

State senator escorted out after not submitting negative COVID test

State Senator Phil Fortunato was escorted out of the Legislative building in Olympia because he had not submitted a required negative COVID test.
4 days ago
King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, coronavirus...
KTTH staff

‘They never could figure me out’: Former King County Sheriff looks back on shortened tenure

Former King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht left office at the end of 2021, and spoke to KTTH's Jason Rantz Show this week to reflect on her tenure.
4 days ago
transgender, gender...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: WA laws now allow teen gender reassignment surgery without parental consent

Washington state now appears to allow minors to undergo life-changing gender reassignment surgery without parental consent.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Ballard teacher ‘abandoned’ students on field trip, keeps his job