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Dundee has an August court date for Coleman

DUNDEE—The Dundee Central School District has an Aug. 31 date in court about firing tenured teacher, Douglas Coleman, for alleged misconduct.

Superintendent Kathy Ring said Coleman, social studies teacher, was suspended without pay for six months, effective June 2, based on the decision of Hearing Officer Dennis Campagna.  Ring added the district is still responsible for paying Coleman’s health insurance during this time.

According to documents filed with the county court in June, the district became aware that Coleman had allegedly committed various acts of misconduct involving inappropriate touching of students, threats, favoritism, and inappropriate grading and assessment practices.  The district said this was all between June, 2006, and February, 2008.

The hearings for these allegations took place during 2008 and 2009, with Campagna making his decision about suspension May 21, 2010.  The paperwork added that Coleman has “a long and storied history of similar transgressions which have been the subject of warnings, counseling memoranda and discipline.”  Coleman started working at Dundee in 1983.

While the district wanted dismissal as Coleman’s penalty, the documents said Campagna suspended Coleman instead.  Ring said that if the district cannot get this decision changed, Coleman would return to work after the six month suspension is over.

She explained he would not work with students, which has been the case already since 2008.  Ring said his responsibilities would be decided in-house.

“I think this situation supports the need for a drastic revision of the 3028-a process (disciplining a tenured teacher),” added Ring.

The district’s argument for dismissal is based on the allegations from the hearing process.  According to the documents, one of the district’s charges was Coleman’s alleged inappropriate behavior towards students, which included touching female students and giving other students nicknames.  The documents stated that the nicknames included “Yummy,” “Speedy,” and “Zebby.”

The district said one case of inappropriate touching included Coleman demonstrating a medieval torture technique on a female student for a history class.  The documents also said that Coleman allegedly touched a female student on the chest and hair.

Another charge the district included, was Coleman allegedly telling a student he would kill him if the student ever spoke during the Pledge of Allegiance again.  The documents said this happened in November, 2007.  The district said Coleman admitted this and that student’s behavior made him mad.  The paperwork said at the time, the principal and superintendent never believed Coleman planned to carry out the threat.

Another charge was that Coleman gave a final exam which was illegible, contained poor and confusing instructions, misspellings, previously used, tested at a lower level than should have been used, and contained inappropriate and suggestive vocabulary terms.  The exam was given at the end of the 2006-07 school year for the twelfth grade Participation in Government class.

One of the district’s specific issues with the exam included a cartoon, naming and making inappropriate comments about a student with Asperger’s Syndrome and a special education teacher.  The document said the student was a member of the class, and after receiving the exam (with no instructions) saw the cartoon.

The district said the student went to find Mary Litwin, the special education teacher.  The report said Maura Benincasa-Wolverton, French teacher, found the student in the hallway crying.  The documents started Coleman said the cartoon was a failed attempt at humor.



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