A high school student spoke up Monday on behalf of fired teacher’s aide Jerry Roth.
John Olson bolstered Roth’s contention that disabled students have been abused at Lakes Middle School. The 10th-grader said teacher Chris Gooley was his 7th-grade adviser when she described hurting a special education student.
“She told me she had shoved one of the students’ heads into the ground as punishment, (and it was OK) because ‘they don’t feel any pain,”’ Olson told a reporter.
Olson later went into a closed-door session of the Coeur d’Alene School Board, where he said he repeated the story.
Gooley has been instructed not to speak about Roth’s case. Because personnel issues are involved, board members met in executive session.
Their informal review of Roth’s dismissal, scheduled for two hours, lasted from 4:30 to 8 p.m. That delayed the start of the regular board meeting by more than an hour.
Roth, 48, was fired Feb. 4. He says he lost his job for speaking out against abuse of students by Gooley and her other aides. School officials said he was fired because he didn’t follow instructions.
Roth, who defended himself before the school board Monday night, will learn within 10 days if the board will reinstate him.
“I feel good that I was able to express myself before the board,” Roth said afterward.
Roth called two witnesses - Olson and his uncle, Darrell Burrell, who said he was present at a November meeting between Roth and Lakes Principal Larry Hill.
At that meeting, according to Burrell, Roth raised the issue of abuse of students and mentioned that he had done so in the past. District administrators have said that Roth didn’t raise the issue until after he was fired.
About a dozen of Roth’s supporters waited in case he wanted them to testify. A half-dozen also signed up to speak on his behalf during the regular board meeting.
They were upset when district Superintendent Doug Cresswell said the board would not listen to comments about Roth during the open meeting.
“I would have thought that if their testimony was important, Jerry and his attorney would have called them in,” Cresswell said.
The district has assigned consulting teachers and administrators to monitor the Lakes Middle School special education classroom. It has also agreed to an outside review of the activities there.
Of the five severely disabled boys who normally attend the class, two have not returned since Roth’s firing because of their parents’ concern about the program.
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