Parents: Teacher crossed the line with discipline -- Police report filed over alleged stomping incident
By Monica Chen, The Herald, October 3, 2006

A Rosewood Elementary School teacher disciplined a second-grader by having classmates stomp on the boy's feet, according to the boy's mother and the mother of a classmate. Philisia Okeke, the mother of the 7-year-old boy, said teacher Daniel Johns had the entire class stomp on her son's toes Sept. 18. Okeke filed a complaint last week with Rock Hill police. The police department is investigating the claims.

Elaine Baker, a Rock Hill school district spokeswoman, said Tuesday she couldn't discuss the incident or any action taken against Johns. Two parents said Johns was on leave last week but came back to teach on Monday.

"All I (can) say is that we had a personnel incident dealt with," Baker said.

The district does not allow corporal punishment in schools, unless it's at a parent's request, and Baker said stomping on toes would not be considered corporal punishment.

"Corporal punishment has always been spanking," she said.

Baker said the school district discourages teachers from using a punishment such as this.

"We encourage teachers to use their best judgments at all times when it comes to dealing with their students," she said.

When reached about the incident Tuesday, Johns said, "It's been investigated by the personnel department. I have no comment."

On Tuesday, Okeke angrily recounted what she said was abusive treatment of her son and the unfair way in which she said school officials handled the matter.

The incident started, Okeke said, when another boy in the class told Johns about her son stomping on his foot.

Then, she said, Johns took a vote in the class and asked the second-graders if they wanted to stomp on her son's foot to teach him a lesson.

They voted "yes," and all of the children lined up.

Johns, who is 25, according to the police report, told the class, "Just squish it," Okeke said her son told her.

Okeke said no one from Rosewood contacted her about the incident, not even after other parents brought it to the attention of principal Stephen Ward and district officials.

Okeke said she did not hear about what happened until her son told her almost a week later. Johns did not tell her about the incident when they spoke on the phone that week, she said.

"If (the other parents) didn't come forth, I wouldn't have known anything," Okeke said. "I think that was wrong."

Another parent, Nancy Ouellette, e-mailed principal Ward after hearing about the incident from her daughter. Ward could not be reached Tuesday.

Ouellette said she thought Johns was a good teacher and this was the first time she heard of any problems with him.

"We were thrilled that my daughter had him," she said. "I had seen him over the years and thought that he had really good classroom control."

Ouellette said Johns went on leave that Thursday. Baker wouldn't confirm that.

When she heard what happened, Ouellette said, she didn't believe it.

"That boy could have been really hurt," she said. "How could they not tell the mother that this happened?"

As a teacher's assistant, Okeke said, she knows teachers can sometimes make mistakes. And although her son has had disciplinary problems at school, she said, what happened was not fair.

"When my son got into trouble, they send me notices," she said. "It's not fair that parents are not notified when the teachers make a mistake."

Okeke and Ouellette said they have transferred their children to another class.

Monica Chen -

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