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Peanut butter cover-up costs teachers their jobs

It was a cover-up that led to the hasty departure of two special education teachers from Millard Public Schools' Walt Disney Elementary School last year.

The teachers spun “a web of deceit,” as one state official put it, to cover up after one of them allowed a student with a peanut allergy to taste a peanut butter sandwich during a class activity.

The fifth-grade boy broke out in an itchy rash and his eyes swelled, according to documents made public as part of a formal state complaint challenging their credentials to continue teaching in Nebraska.

The documents indicate that the teachers misled the boy's parents and school administrators about how the boy came into contact with peanut butter.

The teachers owned up to the deception several days later after a student-teacher at Disney notified her college adviser about the incident and the college contacted the Millard Public Schools, the documents indicate. Both teachers resigned.

Three paraprofessionals also left employment at the school after the incident.

A lawyer representing the teachers could not be reached for comment Monday.

The circumstances surrounding the April 18, 2012, incident were largely kept secret until state disciplinary proceedings against the teachers reached the decision point.

Based on a state investigation, the Nebraska Professional Practices Commission has recommended revoking for one year the teaching certificates of Keri Watkins and Ann Gigstad, who are no longer with the district.

The Nebraska Board of Education will consider approving that recommendation Tuesday.

Commission members ruled that Nebraska Education Commissioner Roger Breed had proved by a preponderance of evidence that Watkins and Gigstad “failed to be truthful” when questioned by Millard administrators.

Nebraska Administrative Code states that an educator shall not make any fraudulent statement or fail to disclose a material fact for which the educator is responsible.

Brian Halstead, assistant education commissioner and general counsel for the Nebraska Department of Education, told commissioners at a March hearing that when educators work with children, “parents are our partners.

“They deserve to know the truth also, even if they are difficult to deal with,” he said.

Under Halstead's questioning, Gigstad testified that Watkins told her she saw the boy put the sandwich in his mouth and spit it out.

She said the two teachers decided not to tell the mother there was peanut butter in the classroom. Instead, documents show, the two teachers decided to say the boy may have contacted the substance in the lunchroom.

“That's the lie that continued to be told, right?” Halstead asked during questioning.

“Yes,” Gigstad said.

Gigstad testified that Watkins had come to her at lunch “flustered” and said she had forgotten that the boy had a peanut allergy.

“I can't. I can't tell his mom. I can't tell,” Gigstad recounted Watkins telling her.

She said the two had made a quick decision that they really didn't think through and now regret.

Rick Wade, an attorney from Lincoln representing both teachers, told commissioners that the student's health needs were “never in jeopardy.”

“They were never ignored,” he said. “There was never any risk of harm to that particular student.”

The teachers took him to the nurse, and the boy's mom picked him up, he said.

“The problem,” Wade said, “was the full disclosure or lack of full disclosure by Ms. Gigstad and Ms. Watkins.”

Wade did not return calls from The World-Herald on Monday. Before the commissioners, he described Gigstad as a kind and compassionate teacher, citing a recommendation letter the district provided her as part of her severance agreement. In the letter, Millard Assistant Superintendent Jim Sutfin described her as hardworking and an “active leader” with good evaluations — he did not mention the incident.

A student teacher in Watkins' class told investigators that Watkins hid the trash that contained the material from the peanut butter lesson. The sandwiches were part of an alphabet lesson on the letter S.

The state report said that the peanut butter and other supplies from the activity had been discarded in a diaper pail.

The student teacher said Watkins and Gigstad told her and several paraeducators who worked in the rooms not to say anything about what happened.

Gigstad testified that she never told them to lie, only to let Watkins answer questions about it because she was the teacher.

Watkins did not testify at the hearing.

Wade and Halstead both told the commission they believed that Watkins had not been employed in K-12 education since the incident,.

Gigstad is employed as a special education teacher in the Atlantic Public Schools in Atlantic, Iowa.

She told investigators that she has disclosed the matter and pending state discipline in Nebraska to her new employer.

Gigstad was certified to teach in Iowa before coming to Nebraska, the documents say.

by Anonymousreply 4105/08/2013

peener budder mugger fugger

by Anonymousreply 105/07/2013

That's kind of fucked up.

by Anonymousreply 205/07/2013

Was the boy attractive?

by Anonymousreply 305/07/2013

[quote] Was the boy attractive?

He was in special ed so I'm guessing not

by Anonymousreply 405/07/2013

Well then what's the point in discussing this?

by Anonymousreply 505/07/2013

The Haus Fraus have gone INSANE!!!!!

by Anonymousreply 605/07/2013

The parents should have demanded executions for the teachers. I can't believe this horrible nightmare really happened.

by Anonymousreply 705/07/2013

It's too bad. Teaching special ed takes a special kind of person. It's extremely difficult work, with not a huge payday. It's not surprising they forgot an allergy. Too bad they were scared and hid it. Good thing the kid didn't die. Though the lying part sucks, I'd give them a pass. We need to support special ed kids more.

I know a spec ed teacher. They are cutting funding, and therefore the helpers she needs to manage the kids. Chaos will ensue as the children's needs won't be met / she can't keep them safe. This sort of thing will easily occur. You can only juggle so many balls.

by Anonymousreply 805/07/2013

We have a photo.

by Anonymousreply 905/07/2013

Your mom sounds smart, r10. So smart.

by Anonymousreply 1105/07/2013

God, how stupid to try to cover it up, especially in front of other adults!

Then again, anyone in this day and age who chooses to illustrate a lesson on the letter S by making PEANUT BUTTER sandwiches is a fucking idiot, anyway.

by Anonymousreply 1205/07/2013

Brave attempt at sarcasm, R11, but it was an

E

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F

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by Anonymousreply 1405/07/2013

Peanut Butter sandwiches are lethal weapons, those teachers knew exactly what they were doing - Homeland Security should get involved. Peanut Butter detectors MUST be placed in every school to protect our children, no matter what they cost, a single life is precious!

by Anonymousreply 1505/07/2013

The boy was ruined for life. His eyes watered and his face swelled!

by Anonymousreply 1605/07/2013

Oooh...his EYES SWELLED UP???!!!! Call the firing squad!!!

Honestly, the fraus are destroying this country.

by Anonymousreply 1705/07/2013

[quote]A student teacher in Watkins' class told investigators that Watkins hid the trash that contained the material from the peanut butter lesson. The sandwiches were part of an alphabet lesson on the letter S. The state report said that the peanut butter and other supplies from the activity had been discarded in a diaper pail.

"S is for Shit"...

by Anonymousreply 1905/07/2013

The problem is the teachers lied. I think firing them was too harsh, though.

What sane teacher would bring peanut butter sandwiches to class, that was dumb.

by Anonymousreply 2005/07/2013

If I had a magic wand, R21, I would sentence you to being a special ed teacher for low pay with too many high-needs kids, for the remainder of your career. Just so you could gain some understanding and compassion, of course. Not to be mean-spirited or judgmental at all...

by Anonymousreply 2205/08/2013

Walt Disney Elementary School?

by Anonymousreply 2305/08/2013

In Saudi Arabia, they would be sentenced to being pelted with stale peanut butter sandwiches until dead.

by Anonymousreply 2405/08/2013

Well it certainly makes more sense than Walt Disney High School, R23.

by Anonymousreply 2505/08/2013

Now I've got this stuck in my head.

by Anonymousreply 2605/08/2013

I would just die if I had a peanut allergy… no, really.

by Anonymousreply 2705/08/2013

Shouldn't a 10 year old (5th grader) know not to eat a peanut butter sandwich. I know that this is a special ed. classroom, but is he so low-functioning that he can't monitor his own food consumption?

by Anonymousreply 2805/08/2013

]quote] I know that this is a special ed. classroom, but is he so low-functioning that he can't monitor his own food consumption?

If he is then she should have been culled from the herd long ago.

by Anonymousreply 2905/08/2013

r28, seriously? Ok, let's look at what we know, according to this article:

1. 5th graders are learning about the letter S.

2. There is a diaper pail in the classroom.

3. Afflicted student doesn't monitor his own food consumption.

4. Teachers aren't worried that the kid will say it didn't happen in the lunchroom, indicating that he's nonverbal.

All signs point to this being a profoundly disabled child.

by Anonymousreply 3005/08/2013

The peanut butter must have been used in some sort of satanic ritual and sexual abuse. I'll bet human sacrifice was a part of this. Someone needs to question the children about this, maybe use puppets to see what they remember.

by Anonymousreply 3105/08/2013

[quote] All signs point to this being a profoundly disabled child.

Who, again, should have been culled from the herd long ago

by Anonymousreply 3205/08/2013

S is for Stupid and Secretive and Sad. The saddest part of all is that all they had to do to illustrate the letter S was point to a Special Ed Student.

by Anonymousreply 3305/08/2013

Whatever r22. Having a diaper pails classroom is not sanitary. Get off your fucking high horse. I had kids in my caseload that had were strapped to chairs and locked in closets. I had administrators tell parents," oh these kids brains are like Swiss cheese." I saw parents go through hell everyday trying to deal with their kids and the myriad of government services they had to navigate the individuals that were abandoned to group homes when they turned 18 as if they never existed, not to mention dthe overall public pity, scorn and indifference they endured. Special Ed teachers get paid more than mainstream ones and deservedly so.

by Anonymousreply 3405/08/2013

His mother always made a big deal about the allergy. Since the teachers didn't believe her this was the only way to find out if she was just being hysterical.

by Anonymousreply 3505/08/2013

Peanut Butter allergies are derived from the Mother's 'pharmaceutical' use during pregnancy.

by Anonymousreply 3605/08/2013

This allergy shit is getting ridiculous.

by Anonymousreply 3705/08/2013

My friend's brain damaged siater became a Special Ed teacher in the 70s because her education would be paid for.

She was in a car accident in college and had a head injury. It changed her personality. She and her sister were best friends, but the sister got cukoo after the head injury.

by Anonymousreply 3805/08/2013

[quote]I had kids in my caseload that had were strapped to chairs and locked in closets.

Were you teaching at the Mrs. Patsy Ramsey, Formerly of Boulder, Colorado School of Deportment?

by Anonymousreply 3905/08/2013

WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE JAYDEN!

by Anonymousreply 4005/08/2013

R32 See Germany ca. 1934-1945; they had similar beliefs to yours. Maybe you can go back to school and get your masters degree in Eugenics.

by Anonymousreply 4105/08/2013
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