Teachers suspended

Published 8:50 am Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WINDSOR – Three Bertie County teachers are suspended without pay following an incident last week.

The incident involved three teachers allegedly leaving a Bertie County Middle School student at a convenience store outside of Windsor. The student was allegedly left unsupervised for approximately 30 minutes.

“Our teachers have a responsibility to stand in the stead of our parents when the children are in our care,” said Bertie County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chip Zullinger. “Parents need to be able to rely on that. That didn’t happen in this incident.”

The school district investigated the incident which happened last Thursday. Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Perry headed the investigation and shared his findings with the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

“It started with two kids who were shadow-boxing in the back of the bus,” Perry said. “The teachers separated those students, sending one to the front of the bus.”

Perry said the student who was moved to the front of the bus wanted his iPod from where he had been sitting. His bag was passed forward and the device was not inside.

In a separate incident, a female student had to use the restroom at what Perry described as an “emergency” level, leading to the bus stopping at the convenience store at the end of County Farm Road.

The female student and a teacher went inside the store, according to Perry, and while the bus was stopped, the student was instructed to find his iPod.

“The boy went to look for his iPod, saw it in another boy’s ear and a fight ensued,” Perry said. “The boys were told to get off the bus and contact their parents to pick them up.”

One of the boys couldn’t reach his parents, Perry said, and was allowed to get back on the bus. The other spoke to a relative and was left behind.

“Obviously, neither child should have been put off the bus,” Perry said. “I don’t believe it was a decision to leave the child, but a lack of communication.”

The male student was left at the convenience store along with a teacher and the female student, who had called her parents due to an accident in the store.

“The teacher came out with the female student and asked why he (the male student) was there as the teacher should have,” Perry said. “Unfortunately, what happened was the female student’s parents picked her up and the teacher, leaving the young man there alone.”

Perry said a staff member from Bertie Middle School realized what had happened and went to get the student from the convenience store.

Dr. Zullinger said the penalties for staff members were warranted and said they were more than one day though he could not comment on specifics.

When asked if he would give additional direction to his staff, Dr. Zullinger said, “I would think it was common sense. Our adults need to be responsible for our children when they are in our care. It’s that simple. We will continue to say that and use this as an example of what cannot happen.”

The child’s father spoke to WITN-TV 7 in Chocowinity and said he was seeking an apology from the school and was contemplating legal action. Attempts by this newspaper to reach the child’s father were unsuccessful.