Beloved Teacher Belatedly Returns to Garfield Choir

After nearly a year of legal wrangling, Carol Burton is back with her students.

On Monday, Garfield choir teacher Carol Burton will be teaching choir at Garfield High, for the first time in almost a year, according to her lawyer Kevin Peck.

“We are proud to announce that pursuant to a resolution with the Seattle School District Seattle Public Schools teacher, Ms. Carol Burton has been reinstated to start back at Garfield High School as the Choir teacer immediately,” Peck wrote in an email to local media last night. “We are extememly happy Carol Burton will immediately be back teaching choir at Garfield High School again.”

Burton was fired by Seattle Public Schools superintendent Larry Nyland last year because she violated district policies (consuming small amounts of alcohol and not enforcing gender segregation and curfews) on a field trip on which female students were groped by a male student. The student who groped them had been previously expelled from a private school for similar transgressions. Despite contractual obligations and state law to the contrary, the district did not inform Burton or Garfield of this fact before the field trip. Over the past none months, Burton has fought to overturn her termination, with the support of many students and their parents. At the end of April, she won: the hearing examiner did find that Burton’s “misconduct was significant” but not terminable, and ordered her reinstatement.

As we reported earlier this month, Seattle Public Schools seemed to ignore that order, keeping her on administrative leave for weeks after the ruling. Following the hearing examiner’s ruling, the district released a statement saying it was “disappointed” and “will continue to review the findings to determine next steps.” Asked about the legality of continuing to keep Burton on leave, district spokesperson Stacy Howard replied, “We are not going to talk about details of why somebody is on leave because it’s a personnel matter.”

One group that’s sure to applaud Burton’s return is her students, who have been leading the choir program in her absence. “I have been teaching the classes since I feel somewhat responsible for the program, and because I can’t stand to see students who love music lose the opportunity to experience it,” student Julia Furukawa told us earlier this month.

Portions of this story have been lifted from our prior coverage here and here.

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