A former Minneapolis second-grade schoolteacher had his license revoked Friday for administering corporal punishment to students in his classroom, including spanking and slapping.
The Minnesota Professional Educator and Licensing Standard Board voted to revoke Herandez Cortez Evans’ teaching license. Evans had taught briefly at Bethune Community School in north Minneapolis in the spring of 2017.
In an earlier administrative law hearing, witnesses from Bethune — including another teacher and a principal — testified that students reported Evans “hitting, spanking, slapping and grabbing” them.
He also was accused of lifting students, carrying them into the hall and locking them out of the classroom unsupervised.
Before making their decision, board members listened to brief statements from Evans and Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Kitchak, who argued on behalf of the state’s teacher discipline board, which had recommended license revocation.
Evans said the case against him amounted to “institutional racism” against a “nurturing, loving black man.” He said he was teaching in a challenging environment and had many students on individualized education programs, or IEPs, who struggled with behavioral issues.
He admitted that he had restrained students by holding their wrists and “basket holds,” but denied abuse.
“I used reasonable force to stop students from attacking each other,” Evans said. “These students have IEPs and behavior goals. Those goals are to stop attacking teachers.”
Kitchak pointed to an administrative law judge’s findings that Evans had administered inappropriate discipline. Administrative Law Judge Jessica Palmer-Denig noted that state law “prohibits the use of corporal punishment on schoolchildren” in her report in March after conducting a hearing in the Evans case.
“Those things don’t depend on the race and background of the teacher,” Kitchak said. “Those things are prohibited by Minnesota law.”
Evans left the hearing Friday before the board handed down the revocation.
Evans first received his teaching license in 2011. He has held teaching positions in about a dozen different schools, according to Palmer-Denig’s report.
“In many instances, [Evans] has not left these positions voluntarily,” according to the report. “In 2011, [Evans] left his first teaching job after three months when he was accused of punching a student in the nose. On other occasions he has been laid off or his contract has not been renewed.”
At the public hearing, Evans said he had been fired by the St. Paul Public Schools on accusations that he had punched a student in the face.
Almost immediately after Evans was hired at Bethune in March 2017, a teacher in a neighboring room became concerned about the noise she heard coming through the wall. She spoke to students, who described Evans spanking and striking them.
Other staffers also observed students who had been locked out of Evans’ classroom. Evans quit his job at Bethune a little more than a month after he was hired.
According to spokesman Dirk Tedmon, Minneapolis Public Schools did a thorough background check on Evans before hiring him. Neither that nor a check with the Minnesota Department of Education raised any issues, he said.
“Any allegation of maltreatment would have been thoroughly reviewed before a hire, and any sustained complaint would disqualify employment,” Tedmon wrote in an e-mail.
Teaching license revocation is rare in Minnesota. Last year, just 27 of the state’s 64,000 public school teachers had their licenses revoked.