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School CP - June 2000

Corpun file 5841

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock, 16 June 2000

Police look into paddling complaint, 2nd in Dermott schools

By Emmett George

DERMOTT -- Law enforcement authorities are investigating a complaint of a second paddling incident involving a Dermott School District principal, officials confirmed Thursday.

Linda Gossett, 34, of Montrose filed a complaint late last month alleging that her son, James Gossett, 12, was paddled by Jimmie Sadler, the elementary and middle school principal, in a classroom and without a proper witness, Police Chief Carl McCree said. Gossett said that her son was paddled by Sadler in a classroom where students with disciplinary problems are sent and that the paddling was witnessed by William Mays, a noncertified teacher.

State guidelines require that paddling be done in private. School district policy requires that a certified teacher be present when corporal punishment is administered. Photographs were taken of the child's buttocks and a report was made, McCree said. The information was turned over to the Child Protection Unit of the Arkansas State Police.

Child protection investigator Beth Carter of Clarendon has been assigned to the case, state police spokesman Donnie Belew said. Carter could not be reached for comment Thursday.

"He was purple and black," Gossett said of her son. "It looked like carpet burns." James Gossett apparently became disruptive during class and made disparaging remarks about Mays' disability, McCree said. Mays is an amputee.

McCree described James Gossett as about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 275 pounds. "He's just a big kid that bruises easily," he said.

District Superintendent Gene Sikora was in the hospital Thursday and could not be reached for comment. Mike Boyd, special assistant to Sikora, said Thursday the matter has not yet been discussed by the School Board. He said he was not at liberty to discuss the case because of student confidentiality concerns.

Chuck Gibson, the school district's attorney, said Thursday that "I don't know anything officially. They haven't tagged me on this."

Sadler recently replaced former elementary school Principal Curtis Harris, who was accused in late March of striking a child in the face with a paddle.

Sylvia Easterling of the Halley community in Desha County complained that Harris struck her daughter, Portia, 8, in the face while attempting to paddle the child in his office for a disciplinary problem. Harris quickly resigned, but not before Easterling filed a lawsuit in Municipal Court charging Harris with third-degree battery and abuse of power. Eudora Municipal Judge Stephen Tisdale has agreed to hear the case. Prosecuting Attorney David Chambers declined to file criminal charges against Harris, saying there was no criminal intent to injure the child.

McCree said he was aware of the Easterling complaint. "That paddling is going to have to stop over there," he said. Arkansas law permits school districts to set their own policies on paddling and corporal punishment, but the policies must be clearly outlined in the school's handbook, according to Ray Lumpkin, administrator for student discipline with the state Department of Education.

School officials do not have to ask permission from parents to paddle students, Lumpkin said, but many require parents to sign consent forms.

"The law allows it [paddling], but you must follow your own policy as contained in the handbook," Lumpkin said. "It should be given after warnings," he said. "It is intended to be a last resort."

Corpun file 5840


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania, 22 June 2000

Principal, teacher held for court

Student testifies he was hit with rod

By Nate Guidry
Post-Gazette Staff Writer

On a scale of one to 10, "the pain was a 10," fifth-grader Jeffery Baur testified yesterday, recalling a whipping at the hands of his school's principal and a teacher.

Baur, 11, said he was bent over a chair and teacher Stephanie Galda held his hands as Principal Stephen Lazzaro struck him across the buttocks four times with a fiberglass rod March 27. He said he fell to the floor, crying. After a while, he stood up and prayed with Galda and Lazzaro.

They were praying for him to become a better student.

After a preliminary hearing yesterday, Lazzaro, principal of Faith Christian School in Wilkins, and Galda, who teaches fifth grade, were ordered to stand trial on charges of child endangerment and conspiracy. Lazzaro also will be tried for aggravated assault.

Lazzaro, 44, of Wilkins, and Galda, 34, of Sharpsburg, were disciplining Baur for an unsatisfactory homework assignment.

"Teachers need to use common sense, too," said Forest Hills District Justice Frank Comunale III. "Everyone isn't Einstein. The kid was chastised before for his behavior and homework."

During the preliminary hearing, Baur and his mother, Rose Baur, testified. Neither Lazzaro nor Galda testified.

Baur told the court he had been paddled in school before but never hit with a fiberglass rod. He said the beating felt "worse than a wasp sting" and left his buttocks bruised. The beating also broke the skin.

"I've been spanked with a paddle approximately five times," he said. "I know people that have been hit with the rod, but not me. The rod is usually used in extreme cases."

Rose Baur testified that she took pictures of the bruises and contacted police. The next day, she said, she took her son to Forbes Regional Hospital, where he was examined, more photos were taken and a report was prepared.

During cross-examination, Stanton Levenson, Lazzaro's attorney, asked Baur if she knew of the school's discipline policy, which spells out occasions when paddling is used.

"I consented to have my son paddled when I enrolled him in school," Baur said. "He has received the paddle before and each time he came home with a slip for me to sign indicating why it had happened. But I never consented to him being spanked with a rod."

Corpun file 5839

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pennsylvania, 22 June 2000

Principal to drop fiberglass rod

By Daniel Reynolds

The principal of a Christian school charged with aggravated assault in the beating of a student told a district justice Wednesday that he no longer will use a fiberglass rod as a tool of discipline.

"It's done," said Stephen Lazzaro, principal of Faith Christian School in Wilkins Township.

District Justice Frank Comunale of Forest Hills ordered Lazzaro and Stephanie Galda, a teacher at the school, held for trial yesterday in connection with the alleged beating of Jeffrey Baur, 11, on March 27.

'A.J.' and his father leave office of District Justice Frank Comunale Wednesday in Forest Hills after a hearing for principal Stephen Lazzaro and teacher Stephanie Galda, who are accused of whipping the 11-year-old student at Faith Christian School in Wilkins Township. (Steven Adams/Tribune-Review photo)

According to Baur's testimony at yesterday's preliminary hearing, Lazzaro struck him four times with the rod because he had submitted an inadequate book report.

The boy suffered bruises and abrasions on his legs and buttocks, Wilkins Township police said.

Baur, who cried before composing himself and testifying, said he had been paddled on five or six previous occasions by Lazzaro, but it had always been with a wooden paddle. He told the court that he had not been injured in any of the previous paddlings.

Lazzaro, 45, of Turtle Creek, was held for court on charges of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal conspiracy.

Galda, 35, of Sharpsburg, faces trial on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and criminal conspiracy because she allegedly held the boy in place over a chair while Lazzaro beat him.

After the whipping, Baur said, he threw himself on the floor and screamed. He said Lazzaro told him he would give him another stroke if he didn't stand up. After he stood up, Baur said he and Lazzaro prayed together that his homework would improve. The boy now attends Trafford Elementary School.

Comunale initially tried to reduce Lazzaro's charges, but objections by assistant District Attorney Ann Steiner resulted in a meeting in Comunale's chambers with Galda's and Lazzaro's attorneys.

After the meeting, Comunale ordered all charges be held for court.

The boy's mother, Rose Baur, who lives in Trafford, testified that she signed a release that permitted the school to use corporal punishment.

"If I knew they used a rod, I wouldn't have signed," she said.

She said the day that her boy was allegedly disciplined, he showed her his injuries. She said she then took photographs, called relatives and went to the Wilkins Township police.

"They can't beat a 'B' into my child," she said.

Galda and Lazzaro received a show of support from dozens of friends and relatives, many of whom crowded into Comunale's small, overheated courtroom yesterday.

"My father's put a lot of time and a lot of love into a lot of families," said his son, Jonathan Lazzaro, 21, who attended the hearing along with his sisters Meredith, 20, and Libby, 18.

Jonathan Lazzaro said all three of them attended Faith Christian School, which in the last year had approximately 70 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Lazzaro said he and his sisters have achieved honors since leaving the school.

Comunale asked Stephen Lazzaro if it wouldn't be possible for parents who enroll their children in the school to do any future paddling if it were necessary.

Lazzaro told Comunale that the school's board is considering the idea.

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