An allegation was made by a student at Monaco Elementary School that I in some way mistreated him or inappropriately interacted with him. Although I have asked for a copy of the allegation none has been forthcoming; so, I have no way of addressing any specifics except through conjecture.
I would like to point out that the sheriff’s office did contact me within 48 hours and concluded that there was no need to pursue the situation any further. However, the Flynn Investigation Group hired by the District to conduct an investigation took ten days before trying to contact me and that was done indirectly through the District. We have received no further call from the Flynn Group.
In the meantime, both public media and the Board itself issued statements of what I presumably had done, despite no written statement. This incident follows well the District practice of placing a person on administrative leave with inadequate justification for the action, and, then, not following up for an indefinite period time while the person is prosecuted in the public media with no recourse to address any concrete evidence.
With an unscrupulous delay in the investigation, I feel compelled to offer an explanation of what transpired if only to give balance to what is already before the public. The following is an account that I wrote for my own recollection.
“After my monthly meeting of the Educational Foundation Board for A14 at ESS I swung by Monaco Elementary. I wanted to introduce myself to Kristin West, the newly installed principal transferred from Kemp to replace Dr. Lechuga, and to drop in on my wife who was subbing for the art teacher. Ms. West had been in her new assignment only ten days or so, and I knew that she had a busy agenda; so, I simply said hi and told her that I was going to swing by Pam’s class.
For some time Pam has enjoyed subbing occasionally in the District. She does it mostly to stay connected to what’s going on in the schools and to help out with the teacher shortage which is epidemic in Adams 14. As part of my job as a Board member I routinely visit schools and classrooms. From time to time I will join my wife for part of the day. Each of us has decades of experience in education at all levels and under many different conditions. The benefit of having two of us in the same classroom is tremendous because it allows us to split the class and concentrate more intently on a smaller group of kids or to have one of us work with off-task students while the other works with the balance of the class.
As with any new teacher, which a sub is to the students, it is important to try to make a personal connection with each child as quickly as possible. Too often the students realize that the sub is only there for a day and then will be gone. So, to have any real rapport, we know that first contact with a new class is important. One way that we have done it in the past is that we greet each student at the doorway with a handshake, tell them who we are, and ask for their name and give her basic first instructions. This works well for a class that will be with the sub for the full day. However, with an elective, the sub receives a new class every period which makes the introduction time consuming and might seem excessive for a fifty minute class.
In this case, I came into the classroom at the tail end of a third grade class. Once they were dismissed Pam and I were discussing whether I would stay for the next class or not. Pam, my wife, had very little to go on as the instructions left for her for the class were insubstantial, untenable, and of very dubious educational content. We were still thinking about what and how we might teach the next class when they began coming in.
Pam did go to the door and instructed the students, unaccompanied by a teacher, to put their computers at their designated table and to sit on the floor at the front of the class with me. Immediately it was obvious that they were not listening or chose to be disregarding. The very first student sat at his desk with his computer and stayed there. I tried to review the instructions with him and by the time I had done that a dozen more students had entered the room. Some sat on the floor with their computers, many had no computer, others milled around the room and those on the floor talked among themselves and a pile of boys were horse playing and wrestling with each other oblivious of requests or instructions from me. Another group of students arrived a few minutes later with a Mr. Lyons. As they entered Pam tried to get information from Mr. Lyons about who was entering her class; he merely told her she would have a class and a half because of the sub shortage and they came in. A third group came to the classroom and Pam spoke to that teacher also, trying to get a grip on who was actually entering the classroom and was once again told at the doorway that she was going to have a class and a half.
Pam decided to split the class with the girls in the back with her and me with the boys in the front of the classroom.
As I don’t know what student is referenced in the allegation or what the incident was, I can only guess that it must have been one of two students.
So, with a room full of students and no roster of who was supposed to be in the room we didn’t know if we had the correct students and whether some were missing, and we had no way of taking attendance.
The first person who might have been responsible for triggering the investigation could have been a boy whom I, in the course of events, learned that his name was Paul. [Since writing this statement I did learn through the sheriff’s office that it was the second person, referenced below.] He was one of the most boisterous and dismissive boys of the kids horse playing. I asked for his name, but he refused to give me his name. So, I asked him to leave the room, which he did grudgingly. I followed him into the hallway and quietly asked to talk to him. At this point, Pam was on the phone with the main office asking for assistance. He turned toward me and appeared to be listening. I explained to him how it would be almost impossible for anyone to learn anything if everyone in the classroom acted the way he did. He seemed to internalize what I said but did not say anything. I then said that it was a reasonable request for an adult in his class to ask for his name. In a nonverbal way he seemed to agree. I paused and asked again. He answered with Paul.
I told him that I really didn’t want to send him to the office; I preferred to have him in the class but that it was important that he act properly. I asked him if he were able to do that. He agreed. I put my arm on his shoulder and said let’s go back in, and so we both walked back into the classroom. Over the next few minutes, he behaved much better. He was sitting very close to me and only once in the next few minutes did I have to remind him of his agreement.
The other probable student who may have filed an allegation was a student who came into the room tossing a medium-sized cube. I first asked for the cube, and he said no and walked away. At that instant I had the choice of either dealing with him or dealing with the other boys. I chose to deal with the rowdy kids on the floor at the front of the class. I also realized that he most probably had an IEP and/or special dispensation, but without any instructions or information about who was supposed to be in the classroom, under what conditions, we didn’t have anything to go on.
A few minutes later when I was trying to work with the boys while Pam was with the girls in the back of the room, the student in question again ignored my requests for him to sit with the others. At this point he was sitting on a low stool blocking the other boys from aggregating around me at the front of the room. I asked him to sit on the floor with the other boys and he gave no response, verbally or otherwise. He continued to toss and catch the cube sitting on the stool among the boys who were to some extent attempting to arrange themselves as I had instructed.
As he was non-responsive to my request first to sit on the floor and subsequently to move away from the other boys, I told him that I was going to move him. I bent over to reach the stool. With one hand I held the stool and with the other hand I steadied the boy by holding his arm so that he would not fall off the stool and slowly slid the stool with him on it a distance of three or four feet toward the outer edge of the half circle of boys arranged on the floor. While I moved the stool and him he made no effort to resist or object. When I turned my attention back to the rest of the students he got up, said in a soft voice “child abuse”, and walked out the door. I stepped into the hallway and asked to speak to him. He did not even turn around to acknowledge my speaking to him. He simply continued slowly and casually down the hallway tossing his cube.
Shortly after this, a person from the office came to the classroom and we had a group of the boys who were wrestling and/or least attentive leave the room escorted by the office personnel.
The balance of the class time was uneventful and proceeded productively.
Ms. West did come to the classroom and spoke to Pam inquiring as to whether anyone had been hurt. Pam didn’t know what she was talking about and answered emphatically “no”.
At home I received a call from Ms. West and she asked me if anyone had been hurt. I said no. She said that someone had made an allegation that was going to be investigated.”
I am releasing this statement to offer my perspective and view of what happened. I fully support the concept of due process. One component of the process is immediacy of action. In this case, the sheriff’s office did contact me immediately and concluded that there was no need for any further action. The District’s investigator, however, has not given me a statement of the alleged incident and has not shown me photographs that presumably were taken of the boy’s arm despite the fact that the District’s attorney has been apprised of these things, as well as the public. I, the accused, have been presented with nothing. My wife has been dismissed as a sub teacher until the matter is resolved. The efforts of the Flynn group to contact her have been as slow and feeble as those made to contact me.
I have no idea what the photograph may show, but I was not aware of any mark on the boy’s arm before or after I moved him and the stool he was sitting on. I only held him to prevent his falling from the stool. My action would not have left a mark. And, of course, a person can obtain scratches or redness or a bruise in many different ways as one walks down the hall thinking “child abuse,” but of course that would be the role of the investigator to determine.
With the event now 19 days old and still no resolution nor even an interview with the Flynn Investigation Group, I am releasing this statement to the public to counter what is already in the public domain.