Tuesday February 19, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Steven Davis' separation from Mount Anthony Union High School became official Friday, more than a month after the longtime teacher stirred public safety concerns by surrendering a semi-automatic rifle and posting alarming videos online.

The separation agreement requires the school district to pay Davis' health and dental insurance through June 30, pay $3,250 owed to Davis through Feb. 7. and an additional 10 accumulated sick days' pay by March 31 if Davis does not violate other terms of the agreement.

In addition to monetary agreements, Davis, who taught math and science teacher at the high school for nine years, signed a covenant not to sue the school district or any of its employees for any past reason related to or arising from his employment.

The separation was signed by all sides Feb. 8, however Davis was given seven days to void the agreement so it was not finalized nor made public until Feb. 15, Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Catherine McClure said.

Davis will receive pay for 10 sick days, a portion of what he had accumulated, if he does not violate the notice against trespass orders in place at all of the SVSU schools and the administrative offices, and he does not violate a "non-disparagement clause." That clause states that neither party may make any statements "that defame, disparage or in any way criticize the personal or professional reputation, practices, or conduct of the districts, its employees, students, and board members, or of (Davis)." If Davis were to violate the clause he would no longer be owed the 10 days' pay and MAU would not have to continue paying his health and dental insurance.

Davis, who surrendered his Vermont teaching license earlier this month, declined to comment on the agreement when reached Monday.

Mount Anthony Chairwoman Sean-Marie Oller said Davis approached the district about severing his employment weeks ago and the agreement was negotiated by attorneys for both sides.

"I think the agreement with Mr. Davis was a fair agreement," Oller said. "It is unfortunate that MAU has lost such an outstanding teacher."

Davis made headlines across the state after posting videos and messages on the Internet Dec. 31 criticizing school officials, co-workers, the teachers union and others shortly after surrendering an AR-15 Bushmaster rifle to police that morning. In the videos Davis made ambiguous comments referencing military tactics and having read CIA manuals, and also stated that certain teachers had to be "removed." He was hospitalized following a mental health evaluation that afternoon and later transferred to Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Center in Morrisville, where he stayed until his release Jan. 22.

He has since said he suffered a hypomanic episode caused by over-medication and emotions brought to a head after he was served a relief from abuse order filed by his wife that morning.

The public videos that received more than 1,000 views before they were taken down days later captivated and frightened the community. Some drew connections to the mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., that occurred just weeks earlier, while others -- largely including current and former students of Davis -- showed public support for the teacher through Facebook and other social media.

Among other courses, Davis taught advanced placement calculus and physics, which his students annually scored far higher than state and national averages on the AP Exams.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi