Teacher wins appeal for review
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · November 09, 2012

Terry Christiansen, fired by the West Branch Board of Education, last week saw an appeals court reverse a Johnson County court decision which upheld disciplinary action against the former middle school teacher and coach.

The disciplinary action originated from the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, which denied judicial review of his case, which was tied to how he handled an unruly student back in 2008.

Christiansen appealed, and Johnson County Judge Robert Sosalla upheld the IBEE’s decision in August 2011, affirming it “in its entirety.” In September 2011, Christiansen appealed again, to the Iowa Court of Appeals, which ruled in his favor on Oct. 31, 2012.

The case now returns to Johnson County.

Phone calls to Christiansen’s attorney, Michael Pitton, were not returned as of deadline.

Appellate Judge Larry Eisenhauer issued the opinion that vacated the Johnson County decision.

Christiansen, who was also a football coach and bus driver, worked for the school district for six years before he was terminated Feb. 12, 2009. According to court records, Christiansen was about to drive a bus of pupils on Oct. 22, 2008, when one of the boys allegedly became disruptive and gave Christiansen “the finger” and refused to leave the bus.

Christiansen then went to remove the eighth-grade boy from the bus and allegedly got rough with him, leaving an unspecified mark on the boy’s arm. He was charged with simple assault, and Pitton argued Christiansen used only the amount of force allowed by law to bring the situation under control. A Cedar County jury agreed and Christiansen was acquitted.

In the IBEE case, his teaching certification was suspended for 90 days, though he had already been fired from West Branch. Christiansen felt there was a lack of evidence and that the school board conducted a biased investigation. The IBEE disagreed, which prompted the appeal.

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