I-Team confronts school board on slapping incidents

September 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The ABC7 News I-Team went to the Santa Rosa School Board meeting Wednesday to ask a simple question -- is it ever appropriate for a teacher to strike a student?

The I-Team first told you last month that the school district investigated a teacher and found that he had, in fact, slapped at least two special education students in the head at Santa Rosa High School. Since first hearing about the story, the I-Team has been trying to find out how he still has a job.

Go to the Santa Rosa School Board and you risk getting a lesson in semantics.

Dan Noyes: "Is it ever OK for a teacher to strike a student?"

Noyes asked the board president what he thought was a simple question.

Dan Noyes: "It's really kind of a yes or no, Larry, come on. Is it OK for a teacher to strike a student, yes or no?"
Santa Rosa School Board President Larry Hanael: "Dan, can I ask a question..."
Dan Noyes: "I'm asking you a question."
Larry Hanael: "How hard does the teacher have to strike the student to be struck?"
Dan Noyes: "You're kidding me, right?"

The I-Team has the documentation -- the school district did its own investigation and confirmed 67-year-old Willie Swindle slapped at least two of his Santa Rosa High special education students last semester, hitting one in the face at least twice. The other student -- smacking both ears at the same time -- what the kids call a "thunderclap." The teacher also flicked, pinched and pulled students' ears and tickled others.

Yet, he still has a job.

"He's done it in January, February, March, April," student Michael Delgado said.

After Delgado, 16, told the I-Team what happened, the school board refused to be interviewed, calling it "a personnel issue." Noyes pressed the point tonight.

Dan Noyes: "Is it ever okay to strike a student?"

School board member Ron Kristof: "Absolutely not."

Donna Jeye: "I would have to say no, it is not."

The I-Team also reported last month that the district refused to turn over the name of a key witness to police -- an adult teacher's aide who saw swindle striking students.

Dan Noyes: "Are you comfortable with the decision not to give the name of the witness to the police?"
Ron Kristof: "You're really out of line coming here when we're really ready to start closed session to do this, yes."

That witness called police after seeing the I-Team report, so they've assigned additional investigators to the case. And the board now confirms they're taking a fresh look at the matter.

The Delgado family was Wednesday's school board meeting with their attorney, asking for mediation -- they want to avoid a lawsuit.

"My client and his family are very hurt right now and they need to heal, so can you please look at this humanely, inexpensively for the city, we're all taxpayers, we all work hard," attorney Michael Fiumara said.

The Delgado's lawyer says Michael has suffered a setback because of being hit -- he's not learning as well as he should, so the family wants some counseling and a new education plan for him. The I-Team stopped by the teacher's home Wednesday evening but was not able to reach him -- he's denied striking students in the past.


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