School documents shed light on Riverdale teacher incident - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

School documents shed light on Riverdale teacher incident

Barb Williams was caught on video aggressively grabbing 6-year-old Ian Nelson. Barb Williams was caught on video aggressively grabbing 6-year-old Ian Nelson.
HANCOCK COUNTY, OH (Toledo News Now) -

New documents are shedding more light on a recent incident at Riverdale Schools where a teacher was caught on video aggressively grabbing a kindergartner.

The documents include recounts of the events on May 7 from the student, teachers, cooks, nurse, principal, even the accused teacher herself. A fellow staff member reported the incident, and video evidence supported the claims. 

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Three cooks taking a break nearby heard the confrontation in the hallway. They say they heard the teacher, Barb Williams, yell at 6-year-old Ian Nelson. According to the cooks, Williams was questioning Ian about using the bathroom, and then things escalated. The cooks said Williams called Ian a liar and said she was sick of him and his parents, then "growled" at him and told him, "I am going to rip you apart."

The next day, Principal Julie Spade, Ed.D and Superintendent Eric Hoffman met with Williams to discuss the incident. Williams said Ian had been fooling around when he went to the bathroom recently, so she went to find him this time. Williams said she was furious, admitting, "I was hard on him, yelled at him."

When Hoffman asked if she touched Ian, Williams replied yes.

"I touched him on the middle of the chest and pushed him back. I was very heated."

Williams also told Spade and Hoffman that she had used the phrase "rip you apart" in the past.

"I was loud, in his face, and I pushed him back. I feel like I was over the top/edge. He's pushing me over the top/edge and my kids over the top/edge. I'm sorry. I don't know what to do with it," said Williams, according to the school documents.

The school nurse was advised to examine Ian for injuries that day. According to the documents, she saw about four pinpoint spots on his upper right arm, along with a scratch and bruise across the right side of his cheek. When she asked Ian about the marks, he told her "his brother hit him with a play telephone." She then asked - in a variety of ways - if an adult or teacher grabbed him, but he said no.

Days later on May 12, the nurse rechecked Ian since the father called a few days after the incident, referencing a bump on his head. It was then, according to the documents, that the nurse realized she had recorded the wrong side. She noticed the marks had since changed color on his face, but the marks on his arm had disappeared.

On the day of the incident, a school counselor sat down with Ian, but said he had trouble remembering the incident. According to the documents, Ian did say Williams didn't touch him and he wasn't scared and didn't cry. When the principal and superintendent showed the counselor the surveillance video, she made the report to Wyandot County CPS.

On May 8, Hoffman wrote a letter to Williams about consideration of suspending her employment due to the use of "inappropriate language toward a student and inappropriate touching of a student." He continues to write that before taking action, he is willing to meet with her to discuss the allegations.


After meeting, it was still decided that Williams should be suspended. In a follow-up document, Hoffman wrote, "your repeated use of physical force was completely unwarranted and unprofessional." Williams was suspended without pay for 10 days on May 14, which is the rest of the school year.

Hoffman ended his letter with "Any future misconduct of this nature will result in your termination of employment. I will be notifying the Ohio Department of Education about this incident."

Many are upset that Williams only received a 10-day suspension. A petition has even been created for her termination and the revoking of her license.


Ian's parents, Anthony and Autumn Nelson, say the teacher is a bully.

"This is a true example of what being a bully is all about," the Nelsons said in a statement. "Schools try to prevent bullying as much as they can, but what if it's the teacher doing the bullying?"

The Nelsons are unhappy with the district's actions.

"A ten day suspension is a slap on the hand and pretty much letting every teacher out there believe that this is okay," they said in a statement.

"I put my trust in the education system to do education, not discipline. Discipline? You call me. I can come to the school, I can take care of the situation and I can assess the situation and see how bad things are," said Anthony Nelson, Ian's father.

Hoffman said he has apologized to the parents for the teacher's actions, but he stands by his decision on the suspension.

"Any time parents send us their children, you know, we want to take care of them, and it is unfortunate that it did happen. But after it happened, we're dealing with it as we move through the process," said Hoffman.

Williams has been with the district for 14 years.

The Hancock County Sheriff's Office has opened an investigation and could file criminal charges against Williams. If the sheriff's office believes charges are warranted, it will forward the case to the prosecuting attorney.

The law firm of Kalniz, Giorgio & Feldstein, based in Toledo, said Friday that it will represent Williams.

"There is a reason why our society retains a system of laws and justice even in this era of round-the-clock video recording," the firm said in a statement.

Williams refused to give us a statement. People who know her family say this is unbelievable.

"Surprising. I know her husband. He's the pastor, he baptized my son. Seeing all of this is just crazy," said Raven Keckler, former teachers aid.

Parents are outraged.

"If it's just one bad apple in a group let's get rid of her and let's not fool around," said Michelle Gesner.

"I think he was 6 you know. I think you could handle that a little better," said Mary Rothlinsberger.

Parents say it all comes down to the way the incident was handled.

Read the full letter from the law firm here.


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