Community members came out Monday evening in support of Daphine Hamm, a Houston County High School agriscience teacher and volleyball coach who was recently placed on administrative leave due to her use of an emotional support animal without proper documentation and insubordination, according to HCS Superintendent Brandy White.
However, the county school board voted unanimously at Monday’s meeting to approve White’s recommendation of 10 days suspension with no pay effective immediately for Hamm.
The Houston County Board of Education placed Hamm on leave on March 19 after White said Hamm refused to provide the proper documentation to him, which as her employer is allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
White also said that Hamm had been insubordinate and had lied to him when questioned about having students in the back of her truck while driving it, as well as some past observances of her classroom and the ag shop which were not up to standard.
“Tonight’s decision was based around all of those incidents, not just the use of a service animal,” White said. “We have no issues with employees needing a service dog, but they have to provide documentation of their disability for us to determine if a service animal or an emotional support animal would be reasonable for that disability.”
Hamm, accompanied by her dog, Grady, stated after she was escorted off of the HCHS campus in March she went and got a new doctor’s note to prove that her dog was a service animal, though the doctor’s note provided at the meeting stated the dog is an “emotional care animal,” which the board did not take as proof that the dog was a service dog.
Hamm said the dog is a psychiatric service animal used to helped ground her during times of heightened anxiety and nervousness.
Hamm was represented by Larry Canada, senior trial counsel for the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, but the board stated that because Hamm was not facing a harsher punishment, more than 20 days suspension, she was not allowed representation during the meeting.
Hamm said HCS currently does not have a policy in place regarding service animals, and she hoped that after this situation they would enact a policy to avoid future confusion for others. White said that currently there are no restrictions for service animals that are properly documented.
In other action, the board also acknowledged some of its Career Tech students for recent competitions.
Other approved agenda items, included:
Commission-based contract for grant writer.
Secondary teachers to teach during their planning period when needed.
Transferring BBVA certificate of deposit that matured April 13 to the BBVA Money Market account to earn 0.12% interest.
Transfer teacher instructional purchasing cards from Regions’ VISA Card Program to BBVA’s Mastercard Program.
PayPAMs addendum to provide for accepting credit cards for tuition payments from non-resident students, with a 2% fee to be billed to the district monthly.
Instruction Programs Coordinator and Coach positions.
Contract with Southeast Alabama Human Development Council, Inc. and HCS, (ISS teachers and zoning/safety/truancy officers for the 2021-2022 school year) in the amount of $274,192.
Transfer of land to Wicksburg Recreation Department to move recreation softball/baseball fields for future construction.
Approve purchase of two A/C replacement units for Rehobeth Elementary mini-gym with TRANE in the amount of $21,746.
Paving parking lot and upgrading intercom system at Ashford Elementary.
Purchasing Verizon cellular gateways for lunchroom temperature sensors from MONNIT for $7,674.77.
Textbook purchase of K-12 textbooks from Publisher’s Warehouse.
Purchase of a copier in the amount of $2,723 for the alternative school.
Purchase of a lawn mower for Ashford High for $10,136.28.
Selling desks that will be removed from schools on GovDeals.
Graduation expenditures for $12,500.
Purchase of Linda Smith’s property next to Cottonwood ag shop for $36,600.
Sydney McDonald is a Dothan Eagle staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com or 334.712.7906. Support her work and that of other Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.