Atlantic High teacher fired after officials learn of accusations
Susan Jacobson | Sentinel Staff Writer
6:22 PM EST, November 28, 2007
A rookie Volusia County teacher found herself unemployed Wednesday after officials discovered that she had once lost her psychologist's license in Montana following accusations of improper relationships with patients.
Constance Reynolds, 52, began teaching honors biology at Atlantic High in Port Orange this semester. Two weeks ago, she settled a lawsuit in Montana, agreeing to pay $800,000 to the mother of one of Reynolds' deceased patients. The lawsuit accused Reynolds of having an affair with the patient, according to published reports.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Reynolds denied that she had engaged in improper relationships. But an administrative law judge determined in 2003 that she had a relationship with onetime patient Dana Mobley, who died in 2004, and that she had improper business dealings with patients. He wrote that Reynolds showed "flagrant disregard for the rules of professional conduct." The Montana Board of Psychology revoked Reynolds' license in 2004. According to published reports, she had settled two other malpractice lawsuits.
On her application to teach in Volusia, Reynolds checked "yes" on a box asking if she ever had a professional license revoked, but district officials did not follow up, spokeswoman Nancy Wait said. Superintendent Margaret Smith has ordered administrators to investigate when any such boxes are checked in the future, Wait said.
"Had we researched this and found out what we know now, we would not have hired her," Wait said. "It's a question of morality and ethics."
Reynolds passed a criminal background check and has on her record only a 10-year-old DUI from Montana, to which she pleaded no contest, according to her application.
Reynolds, who was earning $39,903 annually, was in a 97-day probationary period for new teachers. The School Board is expected to approve her termination at its Dec. 11 meeting. Reynolds was notified after school Tuesday after media inquiries called the district's attention to the situation.
Reynolds told the Orlando Sentinel that she had been honest on her application, which is why the firing took her by surprise.
"I didn't think it was going to be a problem," she said. "I thought I could make a difference in kids' lives."
Reynolds' moved to Central Florida, where she has family, about 2005 and worked briefly as a substitute teacher in Volusia last semester before being hired full time.
She was a psychologist in private practice for 12 years in Billings, Mont., but offered no references from that state, writing, "I do not have any contact with any of my former clients or colleagues in Montana."