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n3teacher-2 Mark Dunbar of Mount Blanchard, Ohio, says during the Riverdale School District’s board meeting on Monday that he supports the actions taken over the claims against teacher Barbara Williams.
Mark Dunbar of Mount Blanchard, Ohio, says during the Riverdale School District’s board meeting on Monday that he supports the actions taken over the claims against teacher Barbara Williams.
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Published: Tuesday, 5/20/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

FORCE ALLEGATIONS

Parents vent concerns over teacher inquiry

Video of teacher using force against kindergartner sparks debate

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MOUNT BLANCHARD, Ohio — For the first time since video of a teacher caught on camera using force against a kindergartner went viral, parents got to express concerns to the school board in Riverdale School District Monday.

“I want to make sure my son and my youngest son, when his time comes to go to school here, will be looked after properly,” said William Perin of Forest, Ohio, whose youngest child will start kindergarten in August.

He was one of two people with questions for the board at the meeting, which was the first time the five-member board has met since the incident involving teacher Barb Williams and 6-year-old Ian Nelson gained national media attention. A security camera in the elementary school showed her grabbing the boy in a hallway on May 7.

Ms. Williams, who has been a teacher in the district for 15 years, was suspended for 10 days beginning May 14 and will not return to the classroom this school year.

The incident is being investigated by the Hancock County Sheriff's Office, the Ohio Department of Education, and the Hancock County Department of Children's Service

In response to Mr. Perin’s concerns, John Livingston, board president, said he supports the decision of Superintendent Eric Hoffman to suspend Ms. Williams for the rest of the school year and the investigations by the outside agencies and law enforcement.

“The board of education does not condone the actions that we also saw on the tape. But we also believe in due process of law,” Mr. Livingston said. “We believe in the Constitution and the right to due process of law; that is where we are right now.”

President John Livingston, left, briefly talks about the ongoing investigation during the board meeting. Center is board treasurer Jodie Ribley, and Superintendent Eric Hoffman is at right. President John Livingston, left, briefly talks about the ongoing investigation during the board meeting. Center is board treasurer Jodie Ribley, and Superintendent Eric Hoffman is at right.
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The board, he said, is waiting for the investigations by the three departments to be completed.

“It is very easy for everyone to jump and for one to make assumptions. ... You can be assured that we take this very seriously,” he told about 20 people who attended the regular monthly meeting.

The only other person to talk on the issue of teacher was Mark Dunbar of Mount Blanchard. He said he agreed with what the administration has done so far. He said it is better to put aside emotions and let the authorities do their jobs.

“Let the state do its thing. Let the sheriff do their thing. Then you will have more facts to judge your decision,” he said.

>Mr. Hoffman said after the meeting that the administration is still waiting for the reports by the agencies. He said Ms. Williams’ suspension will be for the rest of the school year.

“It’s a process,” he said.

The Nelson family remains “traumatized by the situation,” said their Cleveland attorney Dan Margolis.

“Right now the focus is on making sure that everybody’s emotional and mental health needs have been taken care of,” he said.

The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office indicated Monday that its investigative work was sent to the prosecutor last week.

The incident was forwarded to the municipal prosecutor’s office in Findlay for review, according to Hancock County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Miller, who said he hasn’t seen the report.

Staff writer Vanessa McCray contributed to this report.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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