MOUNT BLANCHARD — Documents released by Riverdale Local Schools are shedding more light on a recent incident after a teacher was caught on camera aggressively grabbing a kindergarten student.
Documents obtained by WTOL 11 include recounts of the May 7 incident by witnesses, the student, the accused teacher and others involved in an investigation into the conduct of Barb Williams, who is accused of grabbing 6-year-old Ian Nelson.
Statements made by cooks in the school’s investigation indicate at least three staff members heard a teacher, identified later as Williams, yelling at a student after he exited a restroom and asking him what he was doing.
“He said he was going to the bathroom,” three school cooks wrote in a statement. “She said he was lying. She said he had no business being in this hall. As the conversation progressed, she became more agitated and her voice was louder and lower in tone. The anger showed through the tone of voice. He was sobbing and saying ‘no’ over and over again.”
The cooks quoted Williams as saying she was sick of him and his parents. They also wrote Williams said, “I am going to rip you apart” and “the folder needed to be on my desk tomrrow or else.”
The incident came to light after Ian’s parents, Anthony and Autumn Nelson, released a surveillance video to WTOL.
The day after the incident, Principal Julie Spade and Superintendent Eric Hoffman met with Williams to discuss the incident.
Williams said Ian had been “fooling around” when going to the bathroom. At the time of the incident, Ian was in a computer class and not in Williams’ class, the documents indicate.
Williams admitted to administrators that she touched the student and pushed him.
“I was very heated,” she said, according to school documents. “… I was loud, in his face and I pushed him back. I feel like I was over the top/edge. He’s pushing me over the top/edge and my kids over the top/edge. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do with it.”
A school nurse examined Ian for injuries. According to documents, she observed four pinpoint spots on his upper right arm, along with a scratch and bruise across the right side of his cheek. When she asked Ian about the marks, he told her “his brother hit him with a play telephone.” The nurse asked in several ways if an adult or teacher had grabbed Ian, and he said no.
Several days later, the school nurse re-examined Ian after his father called asking about a bump on his head. It was then, according to the documents, that the nurse realized she had recorded the wrong side. She noticed the marks had changed on his face, but the marks on his arm had disappeared.
A school counselor met with Ian on the day of the incident, but he said he could not remember what happened. According to the documents, Ian said Williams did not touch him and he was not scared and did not cry. When
the principal and superintendent showed the counselor the surveillance video, she reported the incident to Wyandot County Child Protective Services.
In a letter suspending Williams for 10 days without pay beginning May 14, Hoffman wrote that Williams responded to the allegations of “inappropriate language” and “inappropriate physical contact with a student.”
“As you know, your responsibilities as a professional educator do not include yelling, ‘I am sick of you,’ ‘I am sick of your parents’ and ‘I will rip you apart’ to a kindergarten student. Moreover, your repeated use of physical force was completely unwarranted and unprofessional.”
Hoffman wrote any future misconduct of a similar nature will result in the termination of Williams’ employment, and he would notify the Ohio Department of Education about the incident.
Anthony and Autumn Nelson said in a written statement that Williams is a bully.
“This is a true example of what being a bully is all about,” they wrote. “… Schools try to prevent bullying as much as they can, but what if it’s the teacher doing the bullying? … This monster may return to school next year. … When a child trusts someone such as a teacher and the teacher is the one doing the bullying, do you not think that has an effect on the child at all?”
The parents wrote they are concerned this is not the first time in Williams’ 25 years as a teacher that she has touched a student.
“You are supposed to touch a child’s mind and heart not touch them physically,” the Nelsons wrote. “Schools are locked up to prevent anything horrible happening to children, but what if your child is locked up with a monster? … My son should have never been scared to go to school. … That time of your life you’re supposed to be happy, care free, enjoying school.”
Toledo attorney Christine A. Reardon said in a written statement her office represents Williams and it will not comment on any allegations.
“There is a reason why our society retains a system of laws and justice even in this era of round-the-clock video recording,” the statement said. “… We ask that the media withhold judgment to allow the legal process to work as intended.”
A Hancock County deputy visited the Nelson family after the surveillance video appeared on WTOL, according to documents. An investigation into the matter will be turned over to the Hancock County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for potential charges.