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Teacher fired for viewing porn can return (UPDATE)

MIDDLETON, Wis. (AP) — A Middleton elementary school teacher fired for viewing pornography at work could be back on the job soon.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has declined to take up an appeal of an arbitrator ruling by the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. Glacier Creek Middle School teacher Andrew Harris was fired in 2010 and six other district employees were suspended for viewing and sharing porn and sexually inappropriate images, jokes or videos on district computers.

Harris could be back at work within a month as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, said district spokesman Perry Hibner.

“We still believe that the district was justified in its action to dismiss Andrew Harris,” Hibner said in a statement. “However, the district intends to comply with the order of the arbitrator.”

The Supreme Court decision ends a four-year legal fight between the school district and the Middleton Education Association, according to the State Journal.

The district’s appeal to the state’s highest court challenged an arbitrator’s ruling that said the district’s firing of Harris was overreaching because a district investigation found others were doing the same or similar types of things — viewing pornography, receiving inappropriate emails, forwarding them to others and visiting inappropriate websites.

“The fact that he was discharged while others were suspended or received written reprimands or nothing at all, the discharge cannot stand,” the arbitrator wrote in the ruling, ordering Harris be given a 15-day suspension instead and reducing to reprimands the suspensions of two other teachers.

Subsequent circuit and appellate court rulings upheld the award.

Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

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