Benton teacher sues superintendent for releasing video

Lynda Hollenbeck
Senior Editor

Bekah Bennett, Angie Grant Elementary fifth-grade teacher who was recently suspended in conjunction with disciplinary action involving one of her students, is suing Dr. Michael Skelton, superintendent, and the liability insurance carrier for the Benton School District.

Bennett is a 15-year educator with the district.

The superintendent had recommended termination for Bennett, but this was modified by the Benton School Board to unpaid suspension for the remainder of the present school term.

Bennett’s complaint was filed Tuesday in Saline County Circuit Court.

According to the lawsuit, Skelton initially suspended Bennett with pay, pending an investigation into the incident. Later, Skelton issued a notice of termination to Bennett, the suit states.

Following a five-hour hearing on March 30, the board declined to uphold Skelton’s recommendation to terminate Bennett, but the suspension without pay was continued through June 30.

The incident leading to this action — disruptive behavior by a fifth-grader and an attempt to possibly run out of the building — was videotaped by the school’s security cameras. The board viewed the video in the closed executive session and concluded that Bennett’s conduct in light of the circumstances did not give rise to a basis for termination.

A copy of the video was released to The Saline Courier in accordance with the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

However, Bennett’s suit states that neither Skelton nor anyone acting on behalf of the Benton School District notified Bennett of the request for the video, which is required by the FOI, nor did

Skelton or anyone acting on behalf of the district request an opinion from the attorney general as to whether the video should be released pursuant to the act.

Later, the video was released to two area television stations which submitted FOI requests.

See today's Saline Courier for the full article.