From the Law Offices of Brown, Brown & Young, P.A.:
Exonerated of All Charges a Year After Original Accusation; Given New Teaching Assignment
John Hickey, the Harford County elementary school teacher who had been barred from teaching and who once faced criminal charges after being falsely accused of biting a student, has been reinstated with full back pay and no loss of service time as an elementary school teacher in good standing in the Harford County Public School System.
The reversal of all prior findings and recommendations, and the reinstatement of John Hickey, were made by the Harford County Board of Education on June 25, 2012, following a lengthy court and administrative fight by Hickey and his counsel, David E. Carey, Esq., to not only clear Hickey but make the actual facts known.
On June 10, 2011, near the end of his 18th year as a 4th and 5th grade teacher at Fountain Green Elementary School in Bel Air, Maryland, Hickey found himself accused of biting one of his students on the wrist, and was placed on administrative leave. In August of 2011, the Superintendent of Schools of Harford County recommended that Hickey be terminated, and he was placed on leave without pay, pending administrative action; he was also charged with second degree assault in Maryland District Court.
From the beginning, Hickey vigorously defended himself against the accusation, appealing the rulings and findings. “The incident simply never took place,” he says. “I have no idea why the accusation was made, but it was a fiction.”
Facing not only the irrevocable loss of his career and the destruction of his family finances, but also criminal and perhaps even civil charges, Hickey retained David Carey, a principal in the Bel Air law firm of Brown, Brown & Young, P.A., to not only defend him, but reverse the findings in every instance.
“That a teacher as accomplished and beloved as John Hickey had to go through this was an absolute travesty,” says Carey, who has over 20 years of legal experience in personal law matters including criminal defense law. “Teachers, parents and students alike came to John’s defense as soon as the charges were made,” he adds.
“Nonetheless,” says Carey, “my client found himself pretty much a pariah — kicked out of the job he loved, targeted by vicious comments in the ‘blogosphere,’ barred from his coaching and umpiring Rec League duties, and made the subject of news articles that painted him as perhaps being some kind of monster,” Carey says. “And this is a man, a teacher, a father and a coach who has glowing recommendations, with hundreds or even thousands of loyal and grateful former students, and who had established a career full of significant achievements — for instance, in his last performance evaluation, John Hickey’s principal described him as a ‘MODEL EDUCATOR’!”
Carey says that he and Hickey had no illusions about how long it might take to clear his name, or what sacrifices might have to be made along the way. “Although we knew that the wheels of justice and administrative redress would grind slowly, we were committed to pursuing this until John Hickey was totally and completely cleared and his reputation restored,” Carey firmly states. “For instance, it wasn’t enough for us, for John and his family, to have had the criminal charges dismissed,” he adds. “Those assault charges should never have been brought in the first place. That’s why we petitioned, and succeeded, in having the charges EXPUNGED. So if you look this up, you will find nothing — and that’s as it should be! Because nothing had ever happened!” Carey says.
On behalf of Hickey, Carey spoke with dozens of witnesses. “I was astounded that pretty much every one I talked to offered to testify on Hickey’s behalf, including students, teachers, guidance counselors and others,” Carey states. Carey simultaneously filed appeals in the administrative Harford County schools process, and fought to have the charges dropped in Harford County Court.
After months of preparation, in December 2011 a three-day hearing took place on the “Matter of John Hickey” before the Harford County Board of Education’s Hearing Examiner, during which faculty, administrators and students testified. On April 17, 2012, the criminal charges were dropped by the Harford County States Attorney, and later all charges were completely expunged from the record. Finally, the School Hearing Examiner, in a written decision, stated that the Harford County Board of Education should “reject the Superintendent’s recommendation to terminate Mr. Hickey” and reinstate him.
On June 25, 2012, the Board of Education adopted the Hearing Examiner’s recommendation, reinstating John Hickey, restoring his back pay, benefits and seniority, all with no loss of service time.
“That was just about as complete an exoneration as we could have wanted,” says Carey. “It will never, of course make up for what John Hickey and his wife and family underwent in the past year, but all his friends and I hope that it will, at least, allow John to get on with his life and resume his career as an excellent teacher, and a teacher of excellence.”
For the 2012-2013 academic year, John Hickey has been assigned to the Third Grade at Deerfield Elementary School in Edgewood. “I am very much looking forward to returning to the classroom,” Hickey says. “Although I’ve primarily taught fourth and fifth grades in my career, I’m familiar with third grade, and I look forward to the challenge. I hope to really make a positive difference in my new students’ academic careers.”
Hickey has no doubt as to where credit for establishing the truth lies. “Truly,” Hickey states, “I want to thank Dave Carey and his hard-working staff — they gave me my life back.”
When asked what he regrets most about the way his almost two-decades tenure at Fountain Green ended, Hickey says, “There’s no question that what I missed most was the closing Promotion Ceremony that year, when the students say goodbye to the teachers they are leaving as they progress to Middle School. I was barred from attending, so my students didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to me, nor I to them. Many of their families, since, have called to say how much they missed that, too,” he adds.
John Hickey and his wife, Cindy, who is also a Harford County Public Schools teacher, are residents of Jarrettsville, Maryland, where they have raised three sons.