Report: Fired teacher's BAC was 5 times legal limit

New details have been released about the Tacoma kindergarten teacher accused of being drunk at school.

An investigative report released Tuesday revealed the Tacoma kindergarten teacher fired for allegedly drinking on the job had a blood alcohol content of five times the legal limit.  Klara Bowman was fired last week.  District officials have said she was drunk while inside the classroom.

Bowman was placed on administrative leave on February 19 while the investigation took place.

"Well to fire anyone in any industry, there has to be a lot of documentation," said Dan Voelpel, who is the Executive Director of Communications for Tacoma Public Schools.  

In this case, there are more than a hundred pages of documentation.  The investigation found that Bowman brought alcohol into her classroom and became so intoxicated she was incapable of supervising her kindergarten students.

Bowman is also accused of attempting to have another teacher destroy evidence of the alcohol inside her classroom after she was put on leave.  The report includes text messages sent from Bowman to that co-worker, instructing her where to find several bottles of alcohol in the classroom and asking the other teacher to throw the bottles away before someone else finds them.  The co-worker did not agree to Bowman's request.  Instead, she notified their superiors.

The investigative report says that one of Bowman's kindergarten students came to the main office at Larchmont Elementary to report that "she was in need of help."  When the school's assistant principal arrived at Bowman's classroom, the report says Bowman was found in a far corner of the room in a chair with her head leaning back.  She was described as "extremely unsteady" on her feet and having slurred speech as she was escorted from the classroom.  

Another teacher reported that earlier in the day, Bowman was "acting out of it" and was seen falling onto two students, then propping herself up and laughing during a reading lesson.

Investigators found an empty bottle of wine and an empty bottle of rum inside Bowman's classroom, as well as two drinking containers that smelled of alcohol and several over the counter medications.

The report states that Bowman's blood alcohol content, or BAC was determined to be at least .4, but notes that .4 is as high as the test will register -- meaning it's possible her BAC was higher than .4  A BAC of .4 is an amount five times the legal limit to be driving in Washington.

In the report, Tacoma Public Schools also acknowledges they were made aware that Klara Bowman may have an alcohol abuse problem back in December of 2010.  In February of 2011, she was caught bringing alcohol to her classroom and signed a "last chance agreement" acknowledging that was "just and sufficient cause for termination," but agreeing to complete rehabilitative treatment recommended by certified drug and alcohol professionals.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the school district explained why Bowman was given a second chance.

"We certainly could have terminated her at that time," said Voelpel.  "I simply think there was a recognition that alcoholism is a disease, and if we put up some rigorous standards for the teacher to meet and she could meet those and show she could come back to the classroom sober and do the good work she'd been doing before, that it could be worth it."

From AA meetings to random drug and alcohol screenings, it appears Bowman adhered to those standards for the past five years, until last month.

"She was in the classroom and doing her job until recently she had a relapse," said Voelpel.  "And the relapse violated the last change agreement she signed, and so we terminated her."

The investigation concluded that when Bowman violated district policy and could have caused "serious harm" to her five and six-year-old students, due to her alleged intoxication in the classroom.

Bowman has already filed an appeal to the district's decision to fire her.  It will be several more months before any kind of ruling on that appeal takes place.




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