A Toledo Public School music teacher was suspended after two incidents involving students last school year, district records show.
Robert J. Donaldson, Jr., served 12 days’ unpaid suspension for the two incidents, which happened at Byrnedale Elementary. According to district records, Mr. Donaldson told a fourth-grade student, “You need to get out of my room before I kill you,” in one incident, and in another pointed out homophobic graffiti to a student it was directed toward.
The first incident occurred Nov. 29, when a student was disruptive in Mr. Donaldson’s classroom. A verbal exchange escalated until Mr. Donaldson made the comment, according to documents in his personnel file. In a phone interview Friday, Mr. Donaldson said that the boy made a fist and charged at him, and said his reaction was in self-defense.
“It was an unfortunate choice of words,” Mr. Donaldson said. “I was being attacked. But I did not touch him, nor did I intend to.”
In a written response to the charges, however, Mr. Donaldson never mentioned being charged by the student. Instead, he wrote that it was the look on the student’s face and his open defiance that triggered his response. Mr. Donaldson said Friday the boy had attacked him before, grabbing his finger and bending it back. The student would have been 10 years old at the time of the incident.
The second incident happened in May. According to district records, someone wrote a student’s name on a desk and referred to him as gay. Instead of removing the table, Mr. Donaldson pointed this out to the student, and also to the student’s brother later that day.
Mr. Donaldson said he was attempting to diffuse the situation, and there was no malicious intent. He said it was a mistake, and an attempt to use humor to diminish the slur. District officials, however, castigated him for bringing up the graffiti to the student, especially in front of peers, arguing that he opened up the student to taunting.
Mr. Donaldson said he’s worked for the district for 17 years, and made two mistakes that happened to occur within two months of each other. He noted his original combined suspensions were for 25 days, but the district reduced that to 12 days after he grieved his discipline and the matter went to arbitration.
Mr. Donaldson wasn’t the only TPS employee to be disciplined for two incidents last year.
Norma Kimple, a paraprofessional who district records show has spent years working with special-needs students, was suspended for 10 days without pay after she reportedly told a parent to “kiss my ass.” Earlier last school year, she was given a written reprimand for telling special-needs students they either looked or were acting “retarded.”
According to district records, Ms. Kimple was at Robinson Achievement, a wing of Robinson Elementary that is dedicated to special-education students, on June 3 when she got into a verbal confrontation with a parent over the parents displeasure with how Ms. Kimple spoke to her child. The parent told school officials Ms. Kimple then told her to kiss her ass.
Ms. Kimple also received a 10-day unpaid suspension in 2006, according to district records, after being accused of, among other things, making unprofessional comments to students and sending students home without authority. District officials, in her notice of suspension, called the most recent discipline her “final notice.”
Ms. Kimple declined to comment when contacted Friday.