The Billings Public Schools board of trustees voted unanimously Monday to fire a tenured teacher after he was accused of a long history of making sexual and other inappropriate comments to students.
The teacher, Glenn Kanvick, addressed the board during the more than two-hour hearing, acknowledging some of the incidents detailed in the lengthy report initiated by outgoing superintendent Terry Bouck. Kanvick denied the most serious allegations made by students.
Kanvick was a tenured permanent substitute teacher for the school district, where he had worked since the mid-1980s after starting as a parking lot attendant. The board’s vote Wednesday was only the second termination of a tenured teacher in the six years Bouck has been superintendent.
School District 2 trustees fired a tenured Medicine Crow Middle School teacher for poor job performance Wednesday.
Among the issues raised by students during an investigation last month, Kanvick was accused of making a sexually suggestive comment to a female middle school student in a school library last year. He told the board he did not recall ever making that comment.
He also denied allegations that he had made derogatory comments to two students based on their weight and that he had responded suggestively to another female student accusing him of “abuse” by saying, “abuse … you don’t know what abuse is,” and then winking at her.
While he acknowledged making the "abuse" comment, Kanvick said it was intended as a broader reference to abuses being reported in the media. The wink, he said, was to show that he was joking.
He also summarily denied the reports by students in one class, who claimed that after they threatened to complain about him, Kanvick responded, "You guys are just kids, no one's going to believe you."
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Board members acknowledged the circumstantial nature of most of the evidence presented against Kanvick, but cited the safety of students as their priority before voting to fire him.
“This isn’t something we take lightly. It's a very, very serious matter. We’re talking about your employment,” trustee Bruce MacIntyre said. But, he added, “It’s our superintendent that’s making the recommendation. There’s a lot of weight behind our superintendent.”
Bouck also addressed the board, calling Kanvick’s actions “deplorable” and standing by his recommendation to fire him. That was also the recommendation of the investigator, Michelle Smith, who was hired by the district to look into the allegations.
Bouck said his only regret was that the matter "was not handled sooner."
While the school board can hire and fire teachers, the state Office of Public Instruction is the only agency that can revoke a teacher's license. Bouck said during the hearing he has been in contact with OPI, which is conducting its own investigation into Kanvick's actions.
At the start of the meeting, Kanvick had asked the board to close the proceedings to the public, citing his right to privacy. His request rebuffed by board chairwoman Greta Besch Moen.
"It is her belief that the public's right to know outweighed the individual's right to privacy," vice chairman Joe Raffiani said Monday evening.
Kanvick can appeal the firing to an arbitrator within 20 days. He declined to comment after the board’s decision. Montana Federation of Public Employees Field Consultant Scott McCulloch, who represented Kanvick at the hearing, said they have not yet decided whether to pursue an appeal, the results of which would be final.