December 03. 2012 11:35PM

Manchester special ed teacher charged in abuse of students is officially fired

New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER - The McLaughlin Middle School teacher charged with abusing special education students has been officially terminated, a year after she is alleged to have shoved one student, dragged another and tied a third to a chair.

The Board of School Committee voted last month to terminate Martine Gambale, who has been on paid administrative leave since April, when district officials say they first became aware of the allegations.

It's unknown if Gambale has appealed the decision to the state Board of Education. Gambale could not be reached for comment, and a call to her attorney, Kevin Sharkey, was not returned.

Gambale was paid $59,341 in 2011; her 2012 salary was not available.

The district confirmed that Gambale's employment with the district was terminated Nov. 14, the same day as a special non-public school board meeting, after the New Hampshire Union Leader made a right-to-know request.

Indictments against the special education teacher were handed up in August in Hillsborough County Superior Court on two simple assault charges, for allegedly dragging a student down a hallway and shoving another, and one false imprisonment charge, for allegedly tying another student to a chair. The charges are all misdemeanors, but two of them carry enhanced penalties of up to five years in prison because the alleged victims were under 13.

Jury selection in the trial is scheduled to begin March 18, 2013.

Gambale's attorney is defending her on the grounds that any physical contact with the students was justified under a state law that allows teachers to use physical force on special education students in certain circumstances.

Superintendent Thomas Brennan would not comment on the case, citing the district's policy on personnel matters, except to confirm that Gambale is "no longer working for the district."

Asked about protections for special education students, Brennan added, "We have several safeguards for all students ... We take all steps that are appropriate and necessary."

Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan told the New Hampshire Union Leader in August, after the indictments against Gambale were made public, that the allegations came to the attention of law enforcement through "mandated reporters" - or people "in the system who are required to report" suspected abuse or neglect.

Gambale is alleged to have put her hands on the back of a student, then 12, and pushed him toward a gymnasium wall at some point last fall, according to the indictment.

The other indictment accuses her of shoving a then 11-year-old student, grabbing him by the wrist, and dragging him down a hallway last Sept. 30.

The incident in which Gambale is charged with tying a student to a chair in the classroom is alleged to have occurred between Sept. 6, 2011 and last March 29, when the student was 13 years old.

Gambale's attorney, Kevin Sharkey, is invoking the "justification defense" under the state law RSA 627:6, according to court documents.

The law states that "a teacher or person otherwise entrusted with the care or supervision of a minor for special purposes is justified on the premises in using necessary force against any such minor, when the minor creates a disturbance, or refuses to leave the premises or when it is necessary for the maintenance of discipline."

The law, revised in 2009, further states that the justification "does not apply to the malicious or reckless use of force that creates a risk of death, serious bodily injury, or substantial pain."

Ben Dick, the president of the Manchester Teachers Association, the city teachers union, said he had no comment on the case.

There are no civil lawsuits against Gambale on file at the Hillsborough County Court at this time.

Gambale was one of at least two employees on paid administrative leave this school year. The former principal at Manchester High School West, MaryEllen McGorry, remains on paid leave since she was suspended in September for reasons that the district has not disclosed.