Former Williston Middle School teacher Jessica Wishnask was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a fifteen-year-old student. Before that, she resigned from Williston after being suspended twice and managed to move on and teach in another county, partially because New Hanover County schools gave her a good recommendation. "The problem with this case is that you have a school and a school board that can see the smoke, but can't smell the fire,” said Duke Lineberry. Looking from the outside in, former school board chair, and now attorney Duke Lineberry says the school board had no hard evidence to prove Wishnask was having an inappropriate relationship with a student. According to him, the school department simply recommended her based on her abilities as a teacher. "If an employer makes a recommendation that is not favorable to the employee, than the employer runs the risk that the employee can sue the employer for defamation or slander,” said Lineberry. Wishnask had been suspended twice with pay while at Williston. That information was available to her future employer if they had asked for it. However, according to Lineberry, the law states a current employer has no obligation to the employee to give them a recommendation in the first place. "Over the years, employers have found out that favorable recommendations may not even be favorable enough to some employees." Some even coined Wishnask an example of the term "passing the trash", recommending an employee teach somewhere else when they may have a troubled past. But Lineberry says if he were still on the board, he wouldn't have done a thing different. North Carolina is also a right to work state, meaning employees have the right to take their skill and find work, anywhere within state lines. If an employer were to give a bad recommendation, not only are they running the risk of defamation or slander, but also they're preventing that employee from practicing their trade within this state.
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