A teacher accused of using corporal punishment and restraining students at a Minneapolis school is locked in a fight with a state regulatory body over his teaching license.
Herandez Cortez Evans will go before the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) on Friday. A disciplinary committee recommended revocation of the teacher’s license after an investigation found that he had hit, spanked, forcefully squeezed students and dangled them in the air.
But Evans, 35, has denied the allegations and said he used reasonable force to correct and maintain order in his classroom at Bethune Community School in north Minneapolis.
“I know that I did nothing wrong,” he said during an interview. “I want to continue teaching.”
Details of the case, which stems from accusations in 2017, emerged recently after Evans filed an appeal. He said he is not teaching now to take time to fight to keep his license.
The board will hear arguments Friday and could take a variety of actions, including suspension of his certification, putting it on hold or allowing him back into the classroom.
“If the board decides to revoke his license, that kind of goes into effect immediately,” said Casey Carmody, a spokesman for the licensing body.
The board took 77 public disciplinary actions in 2018, revoking 17 licenses. Another 10 teachers’ licenses were automatically revoked under state law, Carmody said. State law allows for automatic revocation of a license for a number of criminal offenses against minors, including sexual misconduct and stalking.
Teachers who are disciplined for misconduct are added to the board’s database, which stores the information for 70 years. But they can reapply for a teaching license.
“We have about 64,000 teachers working in Minnesota public school classrooms,” Carmody said. “The number of individuals [the board] disciplines each year is a very small portion of the overall teacher population in the state. Most Minnesota teachers are committed to the ethical obligations of the profession.”
Other educators at Bethune reported Evans to officials.
A report from an administrative law judge found that Evans has taught at about 12 different schools. He reportedly left his first job in 2011 after “he was accused of punching a student in the nose.”
At Bethune, other teachers said they saw him pick up students with his hands under their armpits and carry them into the hallway, locking them out of the classroom unsupervised. Students also told other educators that Evans had hit them and squeezed their arms, the report said.
The school is a “challenging teaching environment” with high teacher turnover, the judge wrote. Ninety-five percent of students there qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and 20% qualify for special education services.
Evans, who is African-American, said he’s been discriminated against by his white colleagues, and administrators often assigned him students who had behavioral problems but provided little support. He said he has had many teaching jobs, starting in the St. Paul Schools in 2011.
During his time at Bethune, from March 22 to April 25, 2017, Evans said, he spent most of his time breaking up fights. At one point, he said he locked a student out of the classroom to stop her from “bullying a medically fragile” student.
Minneapolis School District records show that Evans’ employment ended April 26, 2017. Dirk Tedmon, a spokesman for the district, did not comment on the accusations, but said the state’s third-largest school system takes allegations of student mistreatment seriously and investigates them immediately.