In November, a cellphone recording was captured of a 10-year-old autistic boy who had gotten his head and arms stuck through the opening in the back of his chair in a Flint, Mich. area school. Voices can be heard taunting the boy, whose chest is resting on the chair’s seat.
Outrage quickly ensued when it was revealed that the voices belonged to Oaktree Elementary School teacher Nicole McVey and the school’s then-Principal, Michael Ellis.
The boy was stuck in the chair for 10-15 minutes, and was only released when a maintenance worker freed him from the chair’s confines. Shockingly, McVey proceeded to show the video to the rest of the class; Ellis emailed it to his colleagues.
The footage was released to a television station in February.
As Patrick Greenfelder, the student’s parents’ attorney said, “You hear of bulling by other students and other kids in class, I have had cases like this before, but I have never had a case with teachers and administrators bullying.”
Nearly 200 pages of written correspondences that have been obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that soon after the video was recorded, Superintendent Scott Bogner placed Ellis and McVey on leave.
An investigation ensued. By January, Ellis had resigned, and the school board approved Bogner’s proposal that tenure charges be brought against McVey, who had spent 14 years in the school district.
Meanwhile, Bogner continued to delicately answer students’ and parents’ questions about McVey’s absence, many of whom continued to express support for the teacher.
The tenure charges against McVey were approved at a meeting on Jan. 13; after the decision, the uproar around the situation died back down.
On Thursday, however, the autistic student’s parents were infuriated anew when, instead of firing McVey, the board voted 6-0 to suspend the teacher for one year without pay or benefits. McVey agreed to attend remedial training with a focus on classroom relationships and the handling of student information.
McVey has also written an apology letter to the student’s parents, in which she wrote that she has “learned the severity” of her mistake.
“I have thought about November 22 every single day for the last five months and wish I could change every part of it,” McVey wrote.
The apology letter and the decision not to fire McVey, however, rekindled the parents’ anger, who have now decided to sue the school district.
“Through all of this mess, the clients had been fully supportive of the superintendent and the school board on this difficult decision,” said Greenfelder.
“Now, for whatever reason, they have reneged on the promise…A lawsuit appears to be their only recourse,” Greenfelder continued.
Bogner is resigning on June 30. In a December email to the board he had written that “adults behaved in a manner that was unprofessional and hurtful.”
Neither the boy nor his parents have been identified, but the boy, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is said to be doing “much better” under the guidance of Ellis’ and McVey’s replacements.