Principal, parents at odds over discipline

AMORY – West Amory Elementary Principal Leigh Todd said Monday that she was asked to resign because of the way she disciplined an 8-year-old student.
In an Amory School District hearing to consider her termination, Todd also said the student’s parents agreed to the measures she took, a claim they denied during their own testimony.
An overflow crowd attended the hearing, which will continue today. The school board later will decide whether to fire Todd, as recommended by Superintendent Gearl Loden.
Todd said the discipline matter occurred March 7 and involved a second-grade student who was being corrected for his third offense. The child, she said, is classified as SLD, Specific Learning Disability, with a reading comprehension learning disability.
Because he was sticking his tongue out at his teachers, flipping the middle finger at them and telling his teachers to shut up, Todd said his teacher, Rosanna Blair, brought him to her for discipline.
Todd said she kept the child with her that day and made him stick his tongue out as a punishment, popping him with a ruler when he didn’t.
“I tried to get him to comply with the punishment and I took him to meetings with me to supervise him,” she said.
During the course of the day, it was revealed that the child also missed lunch.
Todd said she had notified the child’s parents, specifically calling his mother and telling her about the misbehavior. She said the mother had agreed to the punishment over the phone and notified the boy’s father of the matter.
Todd said the parents did not want him suspended from school, which the school’s handbook allows after a third offense. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to suspend and put a child out of school,” Todd said. “And the parents didn’t want that either.”
“The purpose of punishment is to correct the behavior,” Todd said. “He wasn’t upset when he left school that day. I had the parents’ support that day.”
But the parents testified that they did not know their child was having to stick his tongue out.
Both parents said they believed that they were agreeing to an in-school suspension that would occur at East Amory Elementary School.
The father also said, “I have no problem with corporal punishment if it’s called for. Spanking is OK, a ruler isn’t.” The father said it was up to the school board whether or not they wanted to fire Todd.
Because of a family illness, Blair wasn’t at the hearing, but in written testimony she said she thought Todd’s discipline was excessive.

Chris Wilson/Monroe Journal