I-Team

Teacher still in classroom following slapping incident

Wednesday, March 06, 2013
, Chief Investigative Reporter
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Why is a Sonoma County teacher allowed to continue teaching after being charged with striking a student? It's a story the ABC7 News I-Team has been pursuing for six months: A Sonoma County teacher who repeatedly struck a special education student and now faces criminal charges. School administrators have been less than forthcoming about why he's still allowed in the classroom.

Even though the teacher faces charges for striking his student, he is still teaching in that same classroom. That angers the victim's parents, and raises questions for the families of other students at Santa Rosa High School.

Dan Noyes spotted 67-year-old Willie Swindle teaching his special education students Tuesday, even though he's been charged for striking one of them several times during the last school year.

"In our opinion, there was an assault based on the investigation and that was the reason for the submittal of the case," Santa Rosa Police Lt. Lance Badger said.

Swindle faces three misdemeanor counts of child endangerment that he "did willfully cause and permit the person and health of said child to be injured." Count one covers incidents during Nov. 2011, count two during Jan. 2012, and count three on March 1 of last year.

In the I-Team's report in August, Michael Delgado said Swindle started picking on him when he was 15 -- slapping and pinching him -- and that the most painful treatment came when Swindle would "thunderclap" both his ears at the same time.

Michael Delgado: "He would go (smacks his ears)."
Dan Noyes: "With both hands."
Michael Delgado: "Yes."
Dan Noyes: "On your ears? On your ears?"
Michael Delgado: "On my ears, he's done it on my face. He's pinched my cheeks."

Swindle did not address the charges when Noyes saw him Tuesday, but he denied hitting Michael when Noyes first met him last year.

Dan Noyes: "The family says that you struck Michael."
Willie Swindle: "Yeah."
Dan Noyes: "Is that true?"
Willie Swindle: "No, that was unfounded, they did an investigation."
Dan Noyes: "It was unfounded?"
Willie Swindle: "Yeah."

Michael's parents told Noyes at the time that the school district ignored their complaints. They are thrilled now to finally have the criminal case move forward.

"Finally, somebody listened, of course, with your help. Mr. Noyes, and being persistent with this, I feel justified," Manuel Delgado said.

The Delgados say the district offered an $18,000 settlement, but they turned it down because it came with a confidentiality clause and Swindle would remain a teacher.

Jeannie Delgado: "It's hard to fire a teacher they said."
Manuel Delgado: "Nothing will be done to him."
Jeannie Delgado: "Yeah, nothing will be done."
Manuel Delgado: "Or the principal for being a mandated reporter."
Jeannie Delgado: "And nobody reporting it."

After Noyes saw Swindle still teaching his class, Principal Bob Coscarelli escorted Noyes to his office and refused to answer his questions.

"This guy has criminal charges now, he's got a court date, for willful harm or injury to a child, and he's still in the classroom," Noyes asked.

"I have no comment whatsoever at this time," Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Mark Klick said.

Klick also refused to comment and directed the school's public safety officer to escort Noyes off campus.

"Mark, really, you have an obligation to explain to the parents why he's still in the classroom," Noyes said.

Santa Rosa Police Lt. Tim O'Keefe: "You're being asked to leave or you'll be arrested for trespassing, you understand."
Dan Noyes: "I'm leaving, thank you."
Santa Rosa Police Lt. Tim O'Keefe: "I'm going to walk you out."

The Delgados say O'Keefe was the one who failed to take their complaints seriously, failed to investigate the case until the ABC7 News I-Team went to his superiors.

Now, they continue to pursue the case because they want Swindle out of the classroom.

"We've been told is it the money, the money? No, nothing to do with the money, we don't want the money, we want justice for our child and any children like Michael," Jeannie Delgago said.

"This district needs to know that there's parents out there that's going to stand up for their special need kids," Manuel Delgado said.

Michael Delgado has been assigned to another class, but he continues to see Swindle on campus. The teacher has a court date in a couple weeks.

An official from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing tells the I-Team they can only take action "if the educator is charged with a specified sex offense or a drug offense that involves a minor." So, it's up to the district, and it looks like they are allowing Swindle to continue to teach.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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santa rosa, teachers, i-team, dan noyes
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