published Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Chatsworth teacher arrested for DUI will not get her job back

  • photo
    Jennifer Zeigler, a former Bagley Middle School teacher, testifies during her fair dismissal hearing in Murray County, Ga., on Tuesday. School officials did not renew her contract this spring after Zeigler pleaded to a DUI arrest and admitted she was drunk while on her way to school in March. The school board upheld Zeigler's firing after the five-hour hearing.
    Photo by Mariann Martin /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CHATSWORTH, Ga. — A former Murray County middle school teacher who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence earlier this year begged the school board Tuesday to give her a second chance, but board members upheld the school’s decision not to renew her contract.

“I love this school system, and I love those schoolchildren,” Jennifer Zeigler told the board Tuesday, crying. “I’m not making excuses; I have no excuse. But I feel like I deserve a second chance.”

School Superintendent Vickie Reed did not recommend that Zeigler’s contract be renewed this spring, effectively ending her job with the school system. Zeigler, who taught for 26 years, requested a fair dismissal hearing before the board.

The seven-member school board heard about four hours of testimony before deliberating in private for more than an hour. After returning, members voted unanimously to uphold Reed’s decision not to rehire Zeigler based on willful neglect of duties and good and sufficient cause for termination.

Reed testified Tuesday that Zeigler not only violated the Georgia Code of Ethics, but also had lost the respect of students, parents and her co-workers.

Zeigler and her lawyer, Stewart Duggan, argued that she had completed all the recommended treatment and should be rehired.

The Eton, Ga., police officer who arrested Zeigler before daylight on March 16 testified he clocked her driving 28 mph over the speed limit. Before Sgt. Todd Pasley pulled her over, she hit a truck stopped at a red light and nearly hit another vehicle as she was pulling into a parking lot, the officer said.

The video from the police car camera shown during Tuesday’s hearing shows Zeigler swaying and stumbling as she walked around the parking lot. She repeatedly told Pasley she had not been drinking.

She also told him several times that she had to be at Bagley Middle School, where she was a language arts teacher, by 6:30 a.m. Zeigler testified she was on her way to school to administer a practice test to students before classes began.

“I’ll go to the emergency room,” she told Pasley when he scolded her for not cooperating in a field sobriety test. “I haven’t had anything to drink. That’s bull. That’s bull.”

Blood samples taken at the emergency room showed Zeigler had a blood alcohol content level of 0.31. The legal limit in Georgia is 0.08. She pleaded no contest to the DUI charge in May and was sentenced to 12 months probation and an alcohol treatment program.

In her testimony, Zeigler admitted that she is an alcoholic and frequently drank herself to sleep. The night before she was arrested she drank vodka until after 1 a.m., she said.

She said she did not know how long she had been an alcoholic and insisted she had never gone to school or attended a school event under the influence of alcohol before her arrest.

“I drank at night,” she testified. “I didn’t think I was an alcoholic, but I know now I am. I’m taking the measures I have [to] to get well.”

A co-teacher and her former principal testified that Zeigler was an excellent teacher who was loved by her students.

The school’s attorney, Stanley Hawkins, argued that Zeigler’s problems could not be fixed in one summer. He also accused her of not being truthful in her testimony.

After the decision, Zeigler’s mother, Joyce Hall, lashed out at the school system and the community. Her daughter had been treated unfairly, even receiving a death threat since her arrest, she said.

“We are all human. We all make mistakes,” Hall said. “When someone they [school board members] love as much as I love my daughter makes a mistake, I hope they get a second chance. The chance my daughter didn’t get.”

Zeigler can appeal the board’s decision to the Georgia state school board. Her attorney said they have not decided whether to do so.

Contact Mariann Martin at or 706-980-5824.

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about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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Astropig said...

I guess that "zero tolerance" sucks when your're the one being zero tolerated.

This lady's career is pretty much at a standstill,and she has felt humiliation,scorn and embarassment (by her own actions).I hope that you teachers and administrators that think that the punishment doesn't fit the crime here will remember this when you crucify some good student over some mindless "zero tolerance" policy that substitutes rules for judgement.

August 10, 2011 at 7:17 a.m.
Yellowbird said...

"The kids loved her", I'm sure she was a hoot. School is not a game. Kids need teachers who have the inner strength to follow through with their mission. Forcing an alcoholic to get on the wagon and attend counseling does little for the self centered attitude which mirrors this condition. Mr. Hawkins is correct, Ms/Mrs. Zeiglers's problems are not over. She does not seem to grasp the weight of her problem by thinking the rules need not apply to her circumstance. And Mrs. Hall, good grief lady, get your head out of the mire. Unfortunately it takes a near tragic incident to remove the handcuffs from the administration and empower them to deal with an obvious problem.

August 10, 2011 at 7:45 a.m.
grandmastaj said...

This happened in Marion County and the superintendent went to the jail and picked the lady up.

August 10, 2011 at 8:10 a.m.
fisher18_80 said...

No one is perfect in life. Alcoholism is a reality, but the good news is that people can overcome it. People shouldn't be thrown away like trash after making a mistake such as this. That's what's wrong with our society. After people commit a crime, we deny them jobs and kick them out of normal society. It's a huge reason why addicts never get better and why criminals continue to commit crimes. Shame on you Vickie Reed.

August 10, 2011 at 9:31 a.m.
mrsmusic said...

I hope she is a member of one of the two teacher's unions: GAE or PAGE. She can fight this. DUI is not grounds for dismissal according to the Professional Standards Commission.

August 10, 2011 at 9:39 a.m.
XGSBoss said...

Fight it? She was on her way to teach CHILDREN!!!!!! Does THAT not violate a code somewhere???? Come on, get some sense. By her own admittance, this was not the first time and if you think that's ok, I am sure she can point you to a facility for help.

August 10, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.
WEBMAN said...

I thought this was a picture of Marcia Clark, the assistant D.A. in Los Angeles who prosecuted O.J. Simpson.WOW

August 10, 2011 at 10:09 a.m.

This drunken White Devil temptress bears an unflattering resemblance to The Crypt Keeper...The demon alcohol will not touch my Muslim lips...Death to the drunken infidels...Praise Allah!!!

August 10, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.
northchatt73 said...

Gee Muhammad, calling her her a "White Devil" is a bit extreme isn't it? Why would you wish death upon her? On no wait. I know why. Because your peaceful religion says that alcohol and women are evil. I guess your sharia law could handle this better. Dirka dirka.

August 10, 2011 at 10:22 a.m.
generic11 said...

Mrs. Zeigler was one of my favorite teachers in middle school. She made language arts class fun, taught me so much about reading and life, and got to know us on a personal level, making dorky girls like me feel important. While I am saddened to see that other young students will not have the opportunity to enjoy Mrs. Zeigler as I did, I hope that this will be a life-changing opportunity for Mrs. Zeigler to recover and truly learn from this experience. She could really use some time off, anyway. Hate all you want on teachers who make mistakes, but we have one hell of a job to do with today's whiny, spoiled, disrespectful young adults. Even I'll drink to that.

August 10, 2011 at 10:29 a.m.
LibDem said...

If Ms. Zeigler has been teaching for 26 years, there should be some indication in her file that she's a problem teacher. If she's a good teacher, you work with her. Does Murray County have an oversupply of good teachers?

August 10, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.
BOOBOO99 said...

Well she made the choice to drink and drive.If she didnt do this she would still have her job. So she made a mistake and deserves 2nd chance on a career but not teaching. This will look bad on her resume.But they are other jobs out their for drunks, Labor Finders or she could get a job in Night club, they might overlook her DUI to become a bartender.So she still has a few options. I wish her good luck in future and I hope the kids at her school see what she has done and learn not to follow her actions in life. Drinking and Driving KILLS!!!!!

August 10, 2011 at 1:52 p.m.

All infidels - drunk and sober - shall be enslaved to Allah...Praise His Name!!!

August 10, 2011 at 3:08 p.m.
steponmybelly2 said...

I don't think it's right to down someone that get's a DUI. if we get one our live's are over pretty much. they should pass a law to stop selling that poison but money is worth more than a life in this country. I got a DUI in ILL in 1992 & still fighting to get them back. if you get a DUI you loose your job & can't get another so you let the state take care of you.

August 10, 2011 at 3:53 p.m.
whoswhit06 said...

I love that people are so easily ready to codemn people that they do not even know. Mrs. Zeigler was my 7th grade English teacher, she was an awesome teacher that obviously just like all other humans in this world made a mistake. I believe that people can change, I have witnessed that with my very own eyes. I wish Mrs. Zeigler the very best of luck and I do intend to keep her and her family in my prayers. And fyi this was Murray county not Marion..

August 10, 2011 at 5:22 p.m.
HannaBeckman said...

She is NASTY!!! Do'nt do the crime if you ca'nt do the time.

August 10, 2011 at 5:51 p.m.
teach_them_all said...

So how many school board members, council members, commissioners, mayors, senators, congressmen, governors, etc. have run-ins with the law such as a DUI and get to keep their positions? It might make for a good study.

August 10, 2011 at 8:24 p.m.
johnnyhurst said...

Come on, even a Chattanooga cop got to keep his job after a DUI. We teach the kids to pretend that everyone in our err "your" society is perfect, until they make a mistake. Then cast them away like all of the other millions of throw away people here in America. All yall elitests, too gooders, hypocrites can kiss my butt. I don't wanna be a part of your stupid little groups anyway cuz your fake as hell anyway.

To Muhammad Van Buren. You know Elijah Muhammad was a demon possessed pedophile don't you?

August 10, 2011 at 11:05 p.m.
ampski said...


August 11, 2011 at 1:21 p.m.
jeffybodeen said...

She should go apply to Sonoraville High in Gordon County, Ga. They let the wrestling coach keep his job and he was busted with pot. Surely a little ol DUI could be overlooked!!

August 12, 2011 at 9:32 a.m.
McRand said...

I can't believe they decided to put the axe to this poor woman. I guess that here in the bible belt the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus says that we will not receive unless we give it no longer has any relevance. Are the school board and superintendent atheists? This case surely warranted a second chance. She's getting the treatment and probation. Why throw 26 years of an experienced teacher away over a single error in judgment? Wasn't it the goodness of God that led us to repentance, or should we forget that and get out the box of rocks and chuck one every time we see her?

August 17, 2011 at 12:29 a.m.
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