Boy's family says suspension for teacher is inadequate punishment

School surveillance footage shows kindergarten student being pushed around by his teacher.
MCT Regional News
May 19, 2014

An attorney for the family of a Hancock County kindergarten student who was seen being pushed around by his teacher in school surveillance footage said the family is very upset that the teacher has been given what they see as a slap on the wrist.

The family of 6-year-old Ian Nelson of Wharton has hired Cleveland attorney Dan Margolis to represent them now that the case against Riverdale school teacher Barb Williams is being investigated by the Hancock County Sheriff’s department as a criminal complaint.

Ms. Williams, who was Ian’s teacher, has been suspended for 10 days without pay after school officials discovered video footage from a security camera showing her confronting the student, pushing him against a wall, and then lifting him up by his shirt and face.

The video has attracted international attention, including from the Daily Mail in England, and the boy’s parents have appeared on national TV.

Letter Riverdale superintendent sent to the teacher (courtesy of Blade media partner 13 ABC)

During NBC’s Today show broadcast Friday, Ian said that the teacher grabbed him by the shirt in a “hard” fashion.

“It broke my heart to see my child get harmed by a complete stranger,” Autumn Nelson, the mother of the boy, said during the interview.

“I was just in complete utter shock,” Mrs. Nelson said when she first viewed the video. “[The administration] should have just fired her when they heard about the whole situation when she put her hands on him.”

The Nelson family also appeared on the Fox network on the Fox and Friends morning program on Friday.

Riverdale Superintendent Eric Hoffman said he has apologized to the parents for the teacher’s actions but for now he stands by his decision on the 10-day suspension. Mr. Hoffman said he will wait until the criminal investigation is complete before making a decision about further action against the teacher, who has worked as a kindergarten teacher in the district since 2000.

Mr. Hoffman said the case is being investigated by at least three agencies, including the sheriff’s office, as well as the Ohio Department of Education and the Hancock County Department of Children’s Services.

According to a summary report of the incident written May 8 by Julie Spade, the elementary school’s principal, three cooks provided information about the incident that they overheard while on their break.

They reported hearing Ms. Williams “speaking very harshly” to the boy, and wrote down statements that they heard her say, including “I am sick of you,” “I am sick of your parents,” and “I will rip you apart.”

According to the document, the teacher told Mr. Hoffman and Ms. Spade during an interview with them that Ian had been going back and forth to the bathroom and that when she confronted him in the hallway she was “furious. I was very hard on him.” She said she had used the term “rip” before but claimed it was in a different context.

“I was loud, in his face, and I pushed him back. I feel like I was over the top/edge. He’s pushing me over the top/edge and my kids over the top/edge. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do with it,” the report states Ms. Williams said to the administrators.

Hancock County Sheriff Michael Heldman said his office began looking into the case after they received a copy of the video. He said deputies took statements from the parents Wednesday. The sheriff said it could be Monday or Tuesday before the investigation is complete.

The sheriff plans to turn over all evidence to the county prosecutor, who will decide if assault or child endangering charges will be brought against Ms. Williams.

“Let’s say that the person who grabbed this child was a high school senior in Riverdale Local — do you think that student would be suspended for 10 days, or would they be expelled?” the Nelson family attorney asked.

There has been a history of the teacher singling out Ian in the classroom, Mr. Margolis said. He said Ian’s parents indicated there has been something going on in the classroom that was making Ian unhappy.

“Having seen the venom and anger she carries for this young child, it calls into question what has been happening,” he said. He added that Ian’s family recently moved to the Riverdale school district and that Ian was a “very happy child” in his former school.

Toledo attorney Jay Feldstein, who represents Ms. Williams, said the teacher with 25 years of experience deserves due process and not a rush to judgment.

“Obviously we’re encouraging everyone to withhold judgment and let the process play out,” Mr. Feldstein said. “With that in mind, we’re going to decline to make comments about it. Let’s let the process work itself out.”

Mr. Margolis said Ian has not been back to school since his parents were alerted to the video. He also said they are not sure when he will return to the classroom.

“He is heavily traumatized by this incident. No child can be physically assaulted by a person they are suppose to trust and be OK,” Mr. Margolis said.

Mr. Hoffman said the Ohio Department of Education has confirmed it has received the school district’s report on the incident and is conducting an investigation. A spokesman for the state agency said, however, by law he is not allowed to confirm or deny that the department is investigating the conduct of a teacher.

Spokesman John Charlton said the investigation will remain confidential unless the accused teacher requests a hearing or if the person is found guilty and disciplined by the board of education. He said if a teacher is found guilty of assault or endangering a child, the Ohio School Board has the authority to permanently revoke the teacher’s license.

Mr. Hoffman said school officials first noticed the incident on the district’s security camera footage on May 7. They started taking action the next day.

The superintendent said he met with the parents on Tuesday, and provided them with the video and documents about the teacher’s suspension.

The Riverdale school district is located in a rural area south of Findlay. The K-12 district has about 1,000 students who come from three counties — Hancock, Hardin, and Wyandot, Mr. Hoffman said.

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By Marlene Harris-Taylor - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

Visit The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) at www.toledoblade.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

CAST THE FIRST STONE

She should never teach again or be around children in any way. FIRE her

ladydye_5

If a parent did that to a child they would be arrested for child abuse! If you saw the link on facebook or watched it on the news, she then follows the child INTO the restroom? Why? Did she go in to WATCH and make sure he went? As a parent I would want to know about that too. All they will do is force her to retire....then she will have a nice happy retirement with FULL BENEFITS and no actually repercussions.

ferball14

If she was still allowed to use a paddle then this would have never happened. I blame the system for outlawing paddles. There needs to be more discipline in kids these days. Respect has gone out the window. Guarantee this kid straightens up after this and there won't be any more problems out of him from here on out!!

IDK

Agreed. She shouldn't have handled him the way he did but kids lack the discipline we grew up with.

rickross2

I know I got paddled in school. Beat them little punks into submission. Then maybe we'll squash the run of little A-holes we've been producing!

truckin

So what your saying is your parents also were producing "little a-holes" and you were a "punk" who needed "beat into submission"?
You did say you got paddled.
Since you got "beat" so should others??

Sure the teacher is way out of bounds and yes i agree there needs to be some form of "in school punishment".
But
For a third party, someone calmer. like the PRINCIPAL.
That is who did the paddling and that was who administered the punishment, not some over the edge teacher.

benedict

I think they need to use the paddle on her Rear End.

ladydye_5

Paddle a 6 year old for "mis-using" the restroom"? WOW. I agree with lack or respect and discipline in school that is way out of control, but you are talking about paddling a 6 year old for dilly dallying in the bathroom. That to me does NOT constitute a paddling or the treatment he received from this teacher. A kindergarten teacher SHOULD know how to handle this kind of behavior. Many 5-6-7 year olds have short attention spans. Many like to wander around on bathroom breaks when they are not under a watchful eye. That in NO means equates to a paddle or being picked up by your jaw/face.

Brock Lee

mabey he a littel stinkr lol

rickross2

Dynamite comment!

freespeech1

She will be ok, the union will make sure she keeps her job.

deertracker

I would go totally off if that was my child!

MiddleRight

"Toledo attorney Jay Feldstein, who represents Ms. Williams, said the teacher with 25 years of experience deserves due process and not a rush to judgment."
Someone tell this genius that time on the job means jack. If there were cameras in the schools 25 years ago, maybe she would have already been fired.

earlduck

watched video,teacher way out of line and probably can't be trusted with kids,that being said the kid is a brat and his parents encourage him to be a brat,the attitude is easy to see

theunknownmessanger

i believe that children should be spanked but never by an angry teacher who may have an issue with a kid,and only by the parents. if i ever seen anyone handle my child like that, male or female i would be the one with the article, because i would beat them senseless. the teachers union will protect her though, there will be no punishment. ever hear of the "lemon dance". its when the teachers union remove a trouble teacher from one school to another. to some teachers its about a check not the future of our kids.

NWalk99

Read the article on MSN.com today. It shows where a parent went to a school and grabbed a kid by the neck that was bullying her daughter. She is being charged with felony child abuse. If the mother protecting her child is charged for laying her hands on a kid - this teacher should be as well. The rules have to be the same for everyone - otherwise just eliminate the rules and let the world be a free for all.

starryeyes83

Put a parent in front of the kindergarten classroom of 25 -35 kids, alone for a couple of hours and video them , for once. Most of them would go bonkers within in first hour.

NWalk99

I don't care how annoyed teachers get. People need to learn to control their emotion. If they do not like working with kids then they should get a new job. I cannot believe how ridiculous you people are for defending the teacher. We have to pay taxes so they have a job, benefits, and summers off....if you think this is OK, maybe you should seek psychiatric help yourself.