MONCKS CORNER — Berkeley Middle School teacher Lori Teuton will return to her classroom, and the student whom she says threatened to cut her with a knife won't be there when she gets back.
After a 12-day holdout, the school district announced Friday that Teuton's grievance against the school has been resolved.
Her attorney said it means she can go back to teaching eighth-grade English in a safe environment, and that the 13-year-old girl who reportedly made the threat will be moved elsewhere — the key hurdle to Teuton coming back.
Teuton expressed relief Friday that the dispute is over. "I just felt like there are certain times in your life when you have to stand up for things," she said.
Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Chester Floyd disclosed the agreement in a news release. "We were able to resolve her grievance and she will return to her teaching position following the holidays," Floyd wrote. He declined a request for an interview.
The statement went on to say, "Matters involving personnel issues and student issues are often more complicated than they appear. Ms. Teuton and her attorney provided us with the time necessary to conduct a full review of her concerns."
Teuton said she'll pick up where she left off when Berkeley students return from the holiday break Jan. 3. She has been at the school for two years.
In early December, Teuton, who has about a dozen years of teaching experience, refused to return to class, saying her complaints about the student were not being resolved. She said she was made to feel unsafe after the student returned from a discipline trip to the school office and reportedly told another student in class "let's just cut her with a knife."
Teuton considered the threat to be legitimate, though the comments were never conclusively confirmed by school officials who investigated them, they said at the time. The student was allowed to stay. After declining to return to her teaching position, Teuton was put on leave with pay and offered a transfer to another school, which she refused.
Floyd's statement said he met with Teuton on Dec. 11 and again Friday. "By conducting a thorough review and considering all of Ms. Teuton's concerns, the district administration and school administration were able to make the decision collectively to resolve Ms. Teuton's grievance in the best interest of all concerned," the statement read.
Floyd did not go into specifics about what swayed his mind or what was uncovered during the administration's review, Teuton said. "He did not want to talk details," she added.
Floyd's message also said it wouldn't be appropriate for him to comment further on the details of the resolution because it involves a confidential personnel matter and a confidential student matter. There was no word on the student's future or placement.
"I'm excited to go back," Teuton said, adding that she told the truth throughout the ordeal while knowing her job and career were on the line.
The standoff was followed widely in the Berkeley County community, including by parents and educators. Laurie Fritz, parent-teacher association president for the state's District 19 PTA, which includes many of the schools in Berkeley County, said the district was right to change its course.
"I'm glad that the district got behind the teacher. Failing to do so, Fritz said, "would send a message" of what students can get away with.
Teuton's lawyer, Larry Kobrovsky of Charleston, credited Floyd for making a quick resolution of the matter, saying the dispute was settled less than 10 minutes into their one-hour meeting Friday morning. His client risked a lot before the issue was finally resolved, Kobrovsky added.
"Mrs. Teuton is a hero to all teachers," he said. "She could have taken the easy way but she stood on principle. Because of her, all teachers can stand a little taller today."
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or email@example.com.