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Teacher Fired For Hitting Special Ed Student With Power Cord

Teacher Fired For Hitting Special Ed Student With Power Cord

Errol Goodwater, a tenured teacher in the New Jersey city of Camden, has been fired for hitting a 13-year-old special education student with a laptop computer power cord in November of 2007. The student suffered a raised welt on his back that was still present the day after, says the Courier-Post. New Jersey’s acting Education Commissioner, Christopher Cerf, said that a video shot by a school camera simply contradicted Goldwater’s claims that he had hit the child “accidentally” and acted in self-defense.

Goodwater’s†tenure trial began last year, in May 2011, after he†had been indicted, tried and acquitted on criminal charges related to his striking the student.†He was suspended with pay shortly after the incident occurred. His attorney, J. Michael Farrell, said that his client plans to appeal as the video did not show “the hazards that Goodwater regularly faced working alone in his classroom, including previous incidents with the 13-year-old.” Farrell pointed out that the student was “bigger” than Goodwater and that, at the time, the teacher “had reason to believe he was in danger of serious bodily injury.”

An administrative judge ruled that Goodwater’s striking the student was a “single, isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished career” and “accidental”; he said that Goodwater had displayed “an immediate overreaction to a perceived threat.” But †in a hearing with an administrative judge, Goodwater had testified that his “kids are murderers, criminals and car thieves,” words that suggest he viewed his students extremely negatively.†Not only did he not bring the child who he had struck to the school nurse but his behavior towards his students was otherwise inappropriate, including telling students to “sit down and shut up.”

The school board of Camden had requested that Goldwater be dismissed;†Goodwater himself had “argued against punishment,” including the forfeiture of any pay.†Cerf’s decision to outright fire Goodwater†rejected a December decision by the administrative judge to suspend him for four years without pay, retroactive to his initial suspension in 2007.

Using physical violence towards students was simply inappropriate and uncalled for. The city of Camden, located in southern New Jersey across from Philadelphia, has long had numerous urban problems; its school system has been taken over by the state. It’s certainly likely that Goodwater and other teachers, and other teachers of special education students, did not have sufficient supports in their classrooms, in terms of aids, materials and much else.

None of this exonerates Goodwater’s hitting the special education student with a power cord. The incident is a chilling reminder of how inadequate, how deeply inappropriately, special education services are for too many students today.

Related Care2 Coverage

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5:23PM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

my goodness. why do these people choose to teach?

11:41PM PDT on May 11, 2012

"None of this exonerates Goodwater’s hitting the special education student with a power cord"

Nor does it make it better if he hit ANY student -

We do not know everything about this. Many commenters have mentioned the need for aides in the classroom - why weren't there any in his class? When were they removed?

Tenure should be ended

1:18PM PDT on May 10, 2012


1:46AM PDT on May 10, 2012

The education system in America is galleywampus. Students and teachers have been known to abuse each other. The Judge Rotenberg Children's Center in Canton, Massachusetts is a frightening miscarriage of justice on a scale we've never seen before:

4:00PM PDT on May 9, 2012

omg how mean

10:59AM PDT on May 9, 2012

A teachers aid could be a big help to teachers of special needs children. If you had known my g.son at an early age you'd want one. But now he is not that way at all.

10:03AM PDT on May 9, 2012

Grazie per l'articolo.

9:39AM PDT on May 9, 2012

Thank you for the article...

9:01AM PDT on May 9, 2012

Before you vilify Goodwater, consider that there IS videotaping going on in his classroom. If this was a common practice there would be further evidence on film. I'd like to think that this was an isolated incident. Certainly it was wrong, but I'm not sure it deserved firing. That sounds like the board was trying to quickly hush the incident at the expense of a hard working teacher in a very difficult job.

8:49AM PDT on May 9, 2012


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