Teacher given plea deferral in alleged pot-smoking
A Mililani Middle School teacher pleaded no contest yesterday to possessing marijuana, a petty misdemeanor, and was granted a deferral of her plea for six months.
Math teacher Lisa Luhrsen entered her plea in Wahiawa District Court as fellow Mililani Middle teacher Benjamin Ayson's case was continued to April.
Luhrsen and Ayson were arrested Dec. 4 after a parent apparently observed them smoking what appeared to be marijuana in Ayson's truck at the Mililani Park & Ride before heading off to school.
Prosecutors opposed the deferral, which would enable Luhrsen to request that her record be erased if she stays out of trouble for six months and complies with all the terms of her deferral. She was also fined $400 and required to undergo a substance abuse assessment.
This was her first trouble with the law, and she was facing a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The charge stemmed from her behavior off campus and did not involve her work with kids, defense attorney Victor Bakke said.
"The facts alleged no type of abuse of trust or power, or put anyone in danger," Bakke said.
Luhrsen was not teaching students that day, but needed to be in school because it was an administrative workday, he said.
Luhrsen, who has been teaching for eight years, remains on administrative leave while the school conducts its own investigation. She also has filed a grievance with the teachers union.
By receiving a deferral, the case against Luhrsen is essentially done, Bakke said. "She has to wait six months and stay out of trouble and focus on what's important in the long term, which is keep her job."
Mililani Middle Principal Roger Kim could not be reached for comment.
The defense in Ayson's case had filed a motion, and District Judge Clarence Pacarro set a hearing on the request in April.
Defense attorney David Gierlach had said earlier that the teachers were smoking a cigarette, not pot. He was not available for comment yesterday.