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North Putnam special education teacher discussed in special meeting

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

BAINBRIDGE -- A special education teacher being investigated for comments on her Facebook page was discussed in a private meeting Wednesday morning at North Putnam Middle School.

Amber Russell was asked to come to the meeting and discuss the issues parents had with her. However, she did not attend the meeting reportedly due to an illness.

Middle school principal Terry Tippin and Nancy Holsapple, director of Old National Trail Special Services Cooperative, attended the meeting, along with parents Leigh Casto and Paula Shepard and disability advocate Jill Summerlot.

Casto said Tippin listened to their concerns, but did not comment on whether or not Russell would receive disciplinary action for her Facebook posts.

"They did listen to our concerns, but they did not give an answer," Casto told the Banner Graphic.

Russell had made several posts to Facebook regarding her job. Some of these posts included, "I love dumb people. I call it job security," and "5+1=Freedom from the Hell hole." Although the wall was private, parents who were Facebook friends copied the comments.

Casto said she has been attempting to get Russell dismissed for several reasons, though the comments on Facebook are the most recent and most publicized of them. Casto claimed that Russell had a disinterest in teaching and an attitude of indifference in her job, to which Shepard, whose son is in her classes, attested.

Shepard said her son was a "teacher's pet" before being put in Russell's classes, and now he never wants to go to school.

"It wasn't like that before," Shepard said.

This has not been Russell's first issue involving parents and the school corporation. On Aug. 17, 2010, Russell had reportedly locked Casto's son Nathan in a closet. Casto's son has not been in contact with Russell since.

After that incident, Casto met with Superintendent Mary Sugg Lovejoy, Tippin and Holsapple and demanded an explanation, an apology and for Russell to be dismissed for breaking state laws regarding seclusion and restraint, as well as allegedly breaking the Individualized Education Program laws.

During the 2010 meeting, Tippin apologized for not handling the incident correctly, though they did not discuss further disciplinary action with Casto.

Russell sent Nathan Casto an apology letter on Jan. 28.

Tippin could not comment on disciplinary actions regarding the personnel, but he did acknowledge the incident and said the school board fully investigated it.

Casto said she hopes that this incident is the final straw, and that Russell will be removed from her post as soon as possible.

"How much more is going to happen?" Casto asked Wednesday.

Because of the nature of the meeting, reporters were not allowed in.

Tippin and Lovejoy had no comment on the proceedings, the disciplinary action that would or would not be taken, or whether Russell was still employed in the school corporation.

The matter is still being investigated by the school corporation.


Comments
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I cannot believe that in this day and age, this tyoe of behavior would be tolerated for any child, let alone those with disabilities.

Who on earth gave this person a degree to work with special needs children in the first place.

Unbelievable-for the parents of these children, I feel for you.If it were my child, she certainly would never have any contact with him again.

-- Posted by dbltrbl on Wed, Jun 1, 2011, at 4:05 PM

This is terrible. She should have been fired when she locked the little boy in a closet. That is so detrimental to a child whether the child was special needs or not.

She needs to go

-- Posted by amkedu on Wed, Jun 1, 2011, at 5:08 PM

Ah, the modern school system at work. Better throw some money at it, THAT'LL fix it!

Never should have made it beyond locking a child in a closet...how does ANY school corp. justify that with ANYTHING other than firing? Maybe time to clean house on UP the ladder.

-- Posted by stranded67 on Wed, Jun 1, 2011, at 7:14 PM

It is time to climb the ladder. You forget this is the same administration that did nothing when the teacher threw sharpened pencils at two students earlier this year.

No matter what the principal, superintendent, and school board say, they condone bad behaviors by sweeping them under the carpet. No educator should ever throw items or shut a student away and be able to keep their job. EVER!

Any principal, superintendent, or school board member that allows less than removal is not protecting the children and should also be fired.

-- Posted by NPNO on Wed, Jun 1, 2011, at 11:49 PM

I can't believe ANY teacher would make comments such as these on Facebook. It's my understanding she was not the only teacher from NP making comments about students & "dumb people" on that posting. I STRONGLY believe they all should face the consequences for their remarks as well. Boy- North Putnam has certainly earned itself a great rep this year!! SAD!!!

-- Posted by NPparent2 on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 9:55 AM

How typical for North Putnam. I am not suprised to be reading something like this. There have been many problems with teachers that are employed there and all the issues have been swept under the rug.

-- Posted by crazyworld1234 on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 11:44 AM

Oh c'mon, like none of you have ever joked or complained about your jobs, your lives, etc.? Her facebook wall was set to private and all I see here is betrayal from her supposed friends.

As far as past issues, they were addressed and if you didn't like the outcome, there's an appropriate place to complain.

A bunch of creepy people living in a creepy county.

-- Posted by westforty on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 12:45 PM

just an opinion, wouldn't special ed teaching be a "burn-out-quick" job? maybe it should be shuffled, so that one yr u teach spec. ed, then trade with another grade. as for the remarks on fbook, not too bright, however...you let your guard down at home, and just get relaxed, vent and make light of a stressful position with ppl u think understand this and then they use it against you. Also, do these teachers get paid more, do they have sufficient qualified help (not just aides)? And we don't know the whole story. I would never encourage anyone to become a teacher these day, such scrutiny, little security or support. On the other hand, if you don't like your job, try to find another one.

This is personal to me, because I did social work for 6 yrs, and its an overworked, underpaid w/ very little appreciation pain in the...

And I have a disabled adult/child. I had alot of respect for her teachers. When I seen the situations they had to daily work with...they had to be angels of mercy, or have nerves of steel. And when we at home had our stressful moments w/disabilities and comprehension, sometimes we would have to laugh and joke about it to lighten the situation(which may have offended someone that didn't understand)-I never used a closet or restraints-but my child wasn't physically out of control or a danger to others.

I just wish the best for everyone in this situation,...the children, the teachers, the parents, the school and system, and the community.

-- Posted by Sputty on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 1:56 PM

Anyone who has done social work knows that it's illegal to use restraint without following the law, which is what this teacher admitted doing. They should also know how important confidentiality is when working with their clients. Getting on a social networking site, private or not, and making remarks when you are a public servant of that community, IS grounds for termination. Refer to this article from the NEA: http://www.nea.org/home/38324.htm

As for past issues and reporting them? I went through all the proper channels and nothing was done. It is most certainly my right as a parent to advocate for my child in every way, and no one's narrow minded opinion will change that. As for the child being physically out of control or a danger to others? Absolutely not the case here. You can't confine a child because they're irritating you. If I did what she did to my child, I would be investigated by CPS. She's lucky that didn't happen to her.

-- Posted by all4advocacy on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 2:31 PM

westforty--SERIOUSLY! To laugh, joke or complain about your job is one thing. To put it on Facebook, where I'm sure several of her students & their parents visit often is another. And as far as her private setting---what she posts reflects on her friends' pages & when their friends visit their pages they can see those comments, too. What her job is, is to teach & help her students & to make a comment like she did--gee I wonder who/what she's referring to!! So c'mon joke about your own life or kids--NOT others kids whom you are educating!!!

-- Posted by NPparent2 on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 2:55 PM

why is the Middle School NOT supporting the parents of this child? It looks like a TOTAL cover up for a teacher who clearly admitted to puting a special needs child into a closet.

This is disgusting. Amber Russell should have been

terminated.

-- Posted by Hparent on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 7:09 PM

Having dealt with North Putnam Middle school's principal on several occasions I have found he talks out of both sides of his mouth. What he promises to do is never what he does. You would be suprised to know what all has been covered up at NP. Also the superintendent seems to not want to do her job either. It is sad in todays society that we as parents can't trust the school system to put our children first. North Putnam used to hold high standards for the teachers and administrators to follow. NP has alot of really caring teachers that are being over shadowed by this incedent. Do the right thing this time and replace her with a caring, loving teacher.

-- Posted by rickcall on Fri, Jun 3, 2011, at 6:57 AM

Complaining about your job is one thing. To make fun of the people you care for and who are the reason that you have a job is something totally different. I am a nurse. I would never ever post degrading comments on my Facebook page regarding my patients. Sure I might complain about long hours, low pay or just general complaints about work, but never would I make fun of my patients. She obviously doesn't care about her students or disabled people in general and needs to find a different career path!

-- Posted by nikkilpn on Fri, Jun 3, 2011, at 9:00 AM

I am a mother of a little boy with cerebral palsy. He is unable to walk or talk and depends on the people around him completely. To hear of a teacher making such disrespectful comments about her students just totally disgust me and I hope they terminate her and she never works again. To some this may be harsh, to me and all the special needs kids out there, it's karma!!!! Amber Russell you are beneath all the people you have come in contact with and you don't deserve to be in the presence of the beautiful children who have graced you with their presence. And people wonder why I'm so terrified of my child going to school.

-- Posted by Meadow31 on Fri, Jun 3, 2011, at 11:57 PM

Everyone should learn what is not apprioate to Facebook

-- Posted by bam on Sat, Jun 4, 2011, at 8:24 AM