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Superintendent: Teacher convictions aren’t indicative of system


MANCHESTER — Manchester school Superintendent Debra Livingston said two recent convictions of special education teachers for abuse of students is not an indication of the district’s special education program.

She said the school district has beefed up its training in crisis prevention intervention, which provides strategies for talking students out of inappropriate behavior.

All new special education teachers have gone through the training, and all teachers in the district will eventually receive it, Livingston said.

“Our teachers are very caring,” said Livingston, who said she could not speak about the two incidents because of employee and student confidentiality. “They’re highly trained, they’ve very committed to students.”

“We’re very pleased with the direction our special education programs are heading,” she said.

Last week, a former Jewett Street School special education teacher pleaded guilty to three assault charges against a 6-year-old girl, one involving putting pepper on her tongue.

Donna Varney, 55, was sentenced to the Valley Street jail for seven days. Earlier this year, former McLaughlin Middle School teacher Marine Gambale, 56, pleaded guilty to tying one student to a chair, and pushing and dragging another student.

Both incidents took place before Livingston started as schools superintendent 13 months ago.

Livingston said she’s proud of the paraprofessionals who came forward and reported Varney. She said it takes courage to do so.

Livingston said the school district needs to continually emphasize the duty of teachers, aides and others to report the abuse or neglect of children. She said the school district wants to foster an open environment where reporting is encouraged.

She said a school employee consults with the school principal if the worker believes a report should be made to state officials. Usually, the principal will assist the worker in making a report to child protection officials, Livingston said.

Once a principal makes a report to state officials, the principal notifies the central office, Livingston said.

When asked if an employee is disciplined for not making a report, Livingston said every situation is different.

mhayward@unionleader.com

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