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April 13. 2014 10:32PM

Abuse in school: A city teacher and a late report

A former Manchester special education teacher physically abused two special-education students in front of other teachers, who reported her to school authorities. The school district needs to reveal to the public exactly how these abuse reports were handled internally.

Former McLaughlin Middle School special education teacher Martine Gambale, 56, admitted to physically abusing two students and was convicted of simple assault and false imprisonment. Last Wednesday she was sentenced in Hillsborough County Superior Court, Northern Distric to two, one-year sentences, suspended for 10 years. She also was stripped of her teaching certificates.

The abuses occurred in the fall of 2011 and into the early spring of 2012. In 2011, a teacher witnessed Gambale shove a non-verbal special education student and drag him down the hallway by the wrists.

Later in the school year, another teacher witnessed Gambale use a blanket to tie another non-verbal special education student to a chair. The upset student screamed and bounced the chair around the room.

What happened between the time these incidents happened and the time they were reported to police in April of 2012 is a mystery. Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia M. LaFrance said the teachers reported the incidents to school administrators, but they were not reported to police until near the end of the school year.

It is encouraging that teachers who witnessed these abuses went to the administration to speak up for students who literally could not speak up for themselves. But parents need to know why the abuses were not reported to police until that April.



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