GPRS teacher disciplined after physical altercation with a student, but mother is not satisfied

A GRPS student is recounting the way his teacher physically removed him from the classroom.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - A Kent Hills Elementary teacher, Robert Spaeth, was involved in an altercation with a student several weeks ago. The incident lead to Spaeth being placed on leave and then suspended. 

ZaKari, 9, alleged in a Facebook video, that he was choked and physically removed from the classroom on Oct. 12.

Spaeth was placed on paid leave immediately following the incident, according to John Helmholdt with Grand Rapids Public Schools. Helmholdt says Spaeth then served a three day suspension. The teacher has not returned to work since.

The district handed its investigation over to the Grand Rapids Police and Kent County Prosecutor who conducted an investigation and found the incident did not elevate to the level of 'assault.'  But Spaeth's actions did break GRPS' code of conduct. Helmholdt says it was "unprofessional conduct."

ZaKari's mother said she's been asking for details or an incident report regarding the incident for the past two and a half weeks. She's received neither. 

"I think he should've been fired," said Shaniqua Walker, mother of the student involved. 

Walker said she believes the district is working to cover up the incident. 

Here is a full statement from Helmholdt:

On October 12, an incident occurred between a 4th grade teacher and a student at Kent Hills Elementary where it was alleged that the teacher assaulted the 4th grade student. Upon learning of the allegations, the teacher was immediately placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. In addition to the school district’s investigation, due to the serious nature of the allegations, it was also reported to the Grand Rapids Police Department and reviewed by the Kent County Prospector's Office.

Both investigations concluded that the incident did not amount to an assault. However, in accordance with board policy and our employee handbook, disciplinary action was taken due to the unprofessional conduct of the teacher during this incident. The teacher in question was out on paid administrative leave from October 12 through October 23. A disciplinary hearing was conducted on October 19.

We cannot stress enough how seriously we take student safety and any allegations related to teacher-student assault. Our public safety team acted swiftly, conducted a thorough investigation, and worked closely with GRPD and the prosecutor’s office on this matter.

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