Source: Sherman Publications

Teacher gets one-year suspension for video

by David Fleet

May 14, 2014

Goodrich- On May 8 the school district reached closure with fourth grade teacher Nicole McVey following an incident that occured in her classroom last November.

Terms of the settlement include a one-year suspension without pay or benefits, along with remedial training for McVey focused on classroom relationships and handling of student information.

The settlement stems from a 53 second video recorded on a cell phone by McVey of a 10-year old student with Asperger’s Syndrome lodged in a desk chair. McVey was removed from the classroom following the incident, which occured Nov. 22, 2013. During the December school board meeting, the board voted 5-1 to dismiss McVey and in closed session OK’d tenure charges. At the same meeting, Oaktree Principal Michael Ellis, who was aware of the video, resigned from the district. The board accepted his resignation by a 6-0 vote.

Details regarding the classroom incident, include audio were released to the media in February when an attorney for the parents of the youth provided the video of student lodged in a hole between the seat and back rest of a classroom chair. That video was aired on a Flint televison station along with the national media and drew a host of public debate regarding the incident.

The voice of McVey is recorded on the video saying to the student in the chair “How did you get into the situation? Do you want to get Tasered?”

The ire and concerns of parents, along with others, swelled the next two school board meetings. Several signs in support of McVey along with comments during the public hearing calling for reinstatement were recorded.

Superintendent Scott Bogner and the board of education had been pursuing charges with the Michigan Tenure Commission based upon the videotaped incident; however, those charges will also be dropped according to the agreement supported by McVey, the school board, district administration and union officials. An appeal had been filed before the Teacher Tenure Commission and a hearing was set for May 21. However, the appeal is required to be waived.

“Accountability is necssary and difficult during times when teacher behaviors do not reflect the policies or values of our district and community,” said Bogner, who announced his retirement in May after two years in the district. “At the heart of this is the fact that every student should be treated in a fashion that reflects dignity and compassion.”

In settling, Bogner acknowledged the importance of compassion for those that make mistakes.

“This had not been easy for the student or the teacher that was involved,” he wrote in a statement. “In this case, the teacher has owned the mistake and been held accountable. When people make mistakes, and we all will, there is room for grace even as accountability occurs.”

McVey will be reinstated for the 2015-2016 school year without loss of seniority. She must take specialized training from a program titled, “Capturing Kids Hearts.”

According to news sources, the program, which focuses on teacher-student relationships— pushes several simple but purposeful directives. Teachers are expected to be outside their doors during class switches and to give handshakes, fist pumps, and/or audible greetings as students enter class. A few times a week as class begins, teachers ask students to volunteer “something good” that is happening in their lives, a step instructors say has prompted students to open up beyond what they could ever have expected.”

McVey had served in the district 14 years without error of discipline. After the announcement of the decision, she responded to the decision in a letter.

“Let me begin by saying there are no excuses or reasons or explanations for what happened. I made a significant mistake. You need to know that throughout this time my heart and my gut have told me that I was wrong. Over the past several months, with many hours to reflect, I have learned the severity of my mistake. What I say and do impacts every part of a student’s life, even more than I originally thought. This has been a significant lesson to learn, and it pains me to think that it was learned at a student’s expense. Seeing and hearing how other now see me gave me a taste for what my student must have felt that day. This is a lesson that continues to haunt me and it is one that will never go away.”

“I have thought about Nov. 22 every single day for the last five months and wish I could change every part of it,” she wrote. “I failed my students, and most of all I failed in my job as a teacher that day. Given the severity of the situation, I understand that the board followed protocol by investigating and taking the actions that it did; I appreciate the many opportunities I was provided to meet with the district and discuss my role.”

Patrick Greenfelder, a attorney for the student’s parents, did not return several calls from The Citizen.