Legal Reporting

Knaggs appeals termination ruling

Story published May 15, 2013
Story published May 15, 2013

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf May 15, 2013.

Former Wenatchee High School PE teacher Ed Knaggs and his attorneys, Quentin Batjer and Lew Card, have appealed a decision to uphold Knaggs’ original termination. The case is now in the hands of Chelan County Superior Court and will follow a process similar to that of the administrative hearing that took place in March. Knaggs lost his job after a student in his class drowned in the WHS pool in 2011.

The notice of appeal is requesting that Knaggs “be reinstated with back pay.”

School district officials received a letter, making them aware of Knaggs’ second appeal, from Superior Court on April 30. State law requires the school district to respond “within 20 days thereafter.” As of press time, the school district had not filed the required documents, which are to include “the complete transcript of the evidence and the papers and exhibits relating to the decision.”

This comes after a long battle between Knaggs and the school district. Originally, Knaggs was placed on administrative leave following the drowning death of freshman Antonio Reyes. Then in April 2012, Knaggs was terminated.

When a certified employee loses their job, Wenatchee School District policy No. 5280 states that the superintendent shall provide a notice of termination and any appeal rights that the employee has along with a notice of the appeals process.

Knaggs did file an appeal, which went to an administrative hearing that was held during the first week of March. Early in April, the hearing officer, William F. Etter, made his decision to uphold Wenatchee School District’s decision to terminate Knaggs.

However, Knaggs and his attorneys claim that Etter’s decision was in error.

“We would like this to play out in the court,” said Batjer. He declined to comment any further on the case.

The Apple Leaf has reported, based on a legal document, that Knaggs’ conduct was “remediable,” in which Knaggs’ attorneys claim Etter “erred in determining that sufficient cause for discharge existed.”

Etter’s findings of fact also stated that Knaggs’ teaching was “effective.” Batjer and Card have countered that claim in their notice of appeals, noting, “If a teacher remains effective, it violates due process for the teacher to be discharged for misconduct.”

Court records indicated that the notice of appeals was served to Wenatchee School District School Board President Jesús Hernandez.

Hernandez explained that the primary focus within the school district at this point is making sure that district administrators take the appropriate measures to avoid “tragedies,” such as the one that Knaggs was involved with.

It is mentioned in the notice of appeals that the school district, WHS, and/or administrators failed to meet their requirements in seven different areas. Those areas range from knowing and understanding Washington Administrative Codes for swimming pool use to ensuring “the appropriate personnel monitored the pool facilities.”

After the school district files its required documents with the court, the case will be heard by a Superior Court judge without a jury. The appeal is to be heard “expeditiously” and “shall be confined to the verbatim transcript of the hearing.” But, the Superior Court is allowed to hear oral argument between the two parties, according to the state laws reviewed by The Apple Leaf.

The judge will then have to make a decision to either uphold the termination, or reinstate Knaggs.

If Knaggs were to be reinstated as his appeal is requesting, Hernandez said that the school district will look at the best way to proceed.