Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Rain 36° Rain
News >  Education

Roosevelt Elementary principal resigned after ‘swat’ to unruly kindergartner

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 19, 2018

A sign outside Roosevelt  Elementary School. The school’s former principal, Laura Franks resigned after swatting a student on the buttocks last month. (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)
A sign outside Roosevelt Elementary School. The school’s former principal, Laura Franks resigned after swatting a student on the buttocks last month. (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)

Roosevelt Elementary School principal Laura Franks delivered a single spank to an unruly kindergarten student on the morning of Sept. 13. It led to her resignation the next day, according to public records obtained Friday by The Spokesman-Review.

Franks told a Spokane Public Schools official that the boy was jumping on a table in an office at the school, and that she eventually responded with a single swat to his buttocks.

“I did swat his butt,” she told Rona Williams, director of elementary schools. “I tried to get him to snap out of it – he did.

“I’ve never done this before.”

Corporal punishment of public schoolchildren is prohibited by state law.

The child’s name was redacted from the report, but the records describe a boy with behavioral problems beyond the typical rambunctious kindergartner.

Release of the records ends five weeks of speculation about Franks, who had been hired this summer after a 20-year administrative career in California.

On the first day of school for first- through sixth-graders on Aug. 30, Franks greeted students and parents at the front door of the school on 14th Avenue.

“I’m excited, the parents are excited and I think it’s going to be a great year,” Franks said at the time.

Kindergarten began a week later, on Sept. 5.

In an afterschool interview on Sept. 13 with school district officials, Allison Weiner, an instructional support services specialist at the South Hill school, stated that the kindergartner who was swatted by Franks previously had problems with “running around the building.”

“It’s not the first day they’ve had issues,” the report continued. “Just yesterday (Sept. 12), the student ran out of the building (to the little playground) and Allison, math interventionist Kim Hagman and an instructional assistant went out and helped.

“When the student escalates, he can last a pretty long time. He gets pretty active.”

The child’s behavior had already led to school meetings with his mother, according to the report.

The child had been “kicked out of a number of preschools,” the report continued. It also says that his parents (who are separated) “had not pursued if there is something that is diagnosable with the child.”

The next day, Sept. 13, Weiner was with the kindergartner, who was not following directions and running in a circle during music class. The behavior was tolerated until it escalated to the point where Weiner removed him.

Later the child began to scream in the hallways. Another staff member took the boy’s hand, but he began to hit, kick and throw chairs at the staffer.

At that point, Weiner regained control of the child and carried him into Franks’ office, where according to Weiner, the principal held the child in an acceptable manner.

After the child squirmed away and was lying on the floor, Franks asked, “Do I have to sit on you?” according to Weiner.

According the report, Franks seemed “frustrated, maybe a little angry.”

At that point, Franks and Weiner walked the boy into another office, but his misbehavior escalated. Eventually, the boy was atop a table, and Franks moved him to the safety of the floor.

After the child climbed onto the table again, Franks removed him and swatted him once on the buttocks.

“I feel terrible it got to that point,” Franks told Williams later that day. “I am so sorry.”

According to Washington state law, “The use of corporal punishment in the common schools is prohibited. The superintendent of public instruction shall develop and adopt a policy prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in the common schools.”

The next day, Roosevelt families received a voicemail from Williams stating that Franks had submitted her resignation. It was effective Monday.

The next week, former principal Matthew Henshaw, the district’s director of elementary curriculum, was back in charge after a four-year absence.

Since then, the district received numerous complaints about a lack of transparency regarding Franks’ sudden resignation.

However, the district was unable to comment on personnel matters such as resignations, according to spokesman Brian Coddington.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.