For seven years Joelle Ogletree has felt as though the community of Glen Rose views her as wearing a scarlet letter.
In 2002, Ogletree, a former Glen Rose Independent School District French teacher, was accused of sexual misconduct with one of her students. Although criminal charges were dropped mid-trial several years ago, the Glen Rose ISD has continuously denied her volunteer and substitute teacher applications.
Ogletree appeared before the school board for the third year in a row Monday in a Level III Grievance, which requested the board to overturn an administrative decision that denied her a place on the substitute teacher list. The hearing was conducted similar to a trial, with each side stating its case and the school board serving as the “jury.”
“I am being denied the ability to substitute teach for the district because of allegations made against me by former students,” Ogletree, who represented herself Monday, said. “Being accused of a crime does not mean you are guilty. I have not been found guilty of any misconduct.
“This grievance should be black and white, open and closed. Everyone else besides this district seems to think so.”
Glen Rose ISD superintendent Wayne Rotan and Glen Rose High School principal Tommy Gibson, who represented the district, presented the board with the reasons Ogletree was denied a substitute position.
“(Ogletree) was indicted by a Somervell County grand jury on two counts of sexual misconduct,” Rotan said. “It is up to us who we employ and do not employ. We believe it is in the best interest of the district not to put her on the substitute teachers’ list.”
During her rebuttle, Ogletree said the allegations were not a reason to not hire her.
“The state of Texas says I am still fine to teach in the classroom, this district has a problem with me,” she said. “In America you are punished for having been accused of something. In Texas you are not punished for having been accused of something. Texas teachers aren’t punished for having been accused of something. Do what is in the best interest of this district - start making decisions that are not unlawful and unjust.”
Rotan and Gibson stated that it is not just the allegations that resulted in the denial of Ogletree’s application.
“Every substitute teacher that applies goes through a national criminal history check through fingerprinting,” Rotan said. “We do national background checks and state background checks.”
Gibson said he would have reservations approving any application that did not clear a background check.
“If I would get anyone with those offenses, even with some lesser offenses, I would not approve (the application) initially,” Gibson said.
Ogletree accused the district of denying her applications for discriminatory and vindictive reasons, which soured several board members.
“I don’t foresee us not being a caring board or a caring district. We do care. We care very much and we don’t want that to be questioned,” member Kelley Snodgrass said. “It is absolutely not personal. It is absolutely what is in the best interest of this district whether you agree with it or not.”
The board made and passed a motion, which let the Level II Hearing decision stand, denying Ogletree a place on the substitute teachers’ list. Board president Marilyn Phillips abstained from the vote because she did not have sufficient time to review the information provided by Ogletree.
Ogletree said her fight will not stop and plans to continue pursuing her efforts to be a part of her childrens’ lives in the school district.
“I feel disappointed and I am unhappy this is going to prolong and continue further. I believe it is discriminatory and retaliatory and that is unlawful. The law is very clear on that,” she said. “The reason I want employment here is the pay is better, but more importantly the time spent traveling is less. This is where my husband works and where my children go to school. There is no reason for me to not work right here with my family. That is what I would prefer to do.”
Ogletree’s first lawsuit, which was filed as a breech of contract, is currently in a motion for a summary judgement with the 10th Court of Appeals in Waco.
Ogletree said the Glen Rose ISD was served with a second lawsuit regarding the Title Seven Civil Rights Act of 1974, this time a federal suit out of the United States District Court Waco Division, at the beginning of October. Additional information about this suit was not available at press time.