School board votes to fire Albert Lea teacher arrested for cocaine possession

Published 8:24 pm Monday, October 22, 2018

The Albert Lea Area Schools board voted unanimously Monday to terminate an employee arrested for cocaine possession in September.

Erin Bennett was an early childhood special education teacher for the school district. Following her arrest Sept. 17, Bennett was placed on paid administrative leave pending investigation. She was also convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana, a petty misdemeanor, in June.

“I think it’s a hard day anytime we have to terminate an employee and we are in education to improve and develop others and unfortunately we had a repeated number of incidents that transpired here that the board chose to deal with today,” District Superintendent Mike Funk said.

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Funk said Bennett had been disciplined in 2013 when she was a paraeducator. Online court records show at that time she was convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana. He said this incident was addressed with management. Her role as a licensed teacher required a different level of expectations, Funk said.

“It’s a different level of responsibility,” he said.

Chairman Ken Petersen said the decision was a tough one.

“We always want to make sure that we work with employees and help them when possible, but at the same time, (when) someone has direct supervision of children, it’s important that we make the right decision,” Petersen said.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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