One thing that thee Akian Chaifetz case has taught us is that some school employees simply do not belong in a classroom. There’s no room for abusing students.

One thing we may not have considered is whether or not some students, and I emphasize the “some students” push the teacher to the bounds of insanity; and cause them to lash out.

In the case of special needs student Akian Chaifetz, I don’t’ believe that was the case at all, given the transcript of recording device his dad Stuart placed on his son.

However, one has to wonder, given the one sidedness of the story, as reported here,
of the dismissal of Errol Goodwater, who taught at Morgan Village Middle School, and was videotaped engaged in an “act of aggression” when he hit a 13-year-old with a laptop computer’s power cord in November 2007.

The question I have is “was the teacher pushed to the point of lashing out…not in disciplining the student, but perhaps in defending himself from an unruly student?”

And should he have been dismissed at all?

In the published report, Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said in his decision that he said a video, shot by a school camera, contradicting Goodwater’s claim that he had acted in self-defense and had hit the youth accidentally.

But Goodwater’s lawyer, J. Michael Farrell, noted the teacher can challenge Cerf’s decision before an appeals court.

Farrell said the video does not show the hazards that Goodwater regularly faced working alone in his classroom, including previous incidents with the 13-year-old.

“This is a young man who’s bigger than my client,” he said. “At the time, he had reason to believe he was in danger of serious bodily injury.”

Goodwater’s tenure case began in May 2011, after being delayed by the teacher’s indictment, trial, and acquittal on a criminal charge related to the incident.

In its tenure charges, the school board alleged Goodwater hit the boy, that he failed to take the youth to a school nurse after the incident, and that he did not “properly aid” in his investigation. The board also said Goodwater used inappropriate language when he told students to “sit down and shut up.”

After a hearing in December 2011, the administrative law judge said he did not believe Goodwater’s conduct was accidental, but was instead “an immediate overreaction to a perceived threat.” The judge rejected the school board’s other charges against Goodwater as unproven, and described the assault as a “single, isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished career.”

But Cerf said the video showed Goodwater’s actions were “cruel and vicious, and sufficiently flagrant to establish his unfitness as a teacher.”

He acknowledged Goodwater had apologized to the student, but called that “a mere gesture … in light of the fact that (Goodwater) continues to suggest that his actions were fully justified under the circumstances.”

He also said Goodwater has tried “to put all of the blame on (the boy’s) behavioral problems and the atmosphere in which he teaches.”

According to the administrative law judge’s decision, Goodwater testified that his “kids are murderers, criminals and car thieves.”

Perhaps when it gets to the point that you refer to your students at either murderers, criminals and car thieves”; or as the Paterson teacher last year who called her first-grade students “future criminals” in a Facebook post…maybe then it’s time to consider a new career.
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