A teacher fired from her job at the Utah State Prison was to have a hearing Monday with Jordan District school officials. She said she will consider a $100,000 libel suit against the director of the prison's education program if the issues cannot be resolved.
Marsha Mahan, a first-year teacher in the prison's high school equivalent program, was denied prison security clearance May 2, so she could not continue teaching. The school district had already notified her that her contract would not be renewed at the end of this school year.Mahan said she believes her firing could be attributed to a personality conflict between her and Marty Kelly, director of the prison education program. The teacher said she had been told she was "too nice" to meet the special needs of prison education.
She said the prison's charges that she had violated security rules stemmed from her taking donuts to her class of prisoners at Easter time without permission and in taking a copy of a petition signed by prisoners in her support out of the prison.
Others on the prison school staff occasionally take treats to the prison school but share them only with staff members, not prisoners, she said.
School district officials said the petition circulated to news media Friday was not credible. It contained the names of many prisoners who had not been Mahan's students, they said.
Mahan acknowledged that some of the 21 signers had not been in her classes but said they knew of her and supported her. Others who had been in her classes and wanted to sign the petition did not have the opportunity, she said.
Mahan said she had put a great deal of time and effort into her classes and that they were popular with the prisoners. She spent her own money to develop arts appreciation classes, she said, and carried a heavy load of classes with just two aides to assist.
"I felt I had done a good job," she said.