2nd allegation that GRPS teacher choked student

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools officials are investigating an allegation that a Kent Hills Elementary School teacher choked a student.

The boy, 8-year-old Kaverrion McBride, told his mother of the accusations Saturday night.

“He grabbed me by the back of my neck, choked me and he was laughing. And then he made me upset,” Kaverrion, who has chronic lung problems, said.

His mother, Passionelle McBride, then contacted the school, saying her child is scared to go back to school, but she says nothing was done. When 24 Hour News 8 reached out to the district, a spokesperson said an investigation began Sunday.

The teacher, Robert Spaeth, is on paid leave until the investigation is complete.

“We want justice for our kids,” Passionelle McBride said.

Spaeth was accused of something similar by another 8-year-old student last year. GRPS investigated and determined that there was not enough evidence to amount to assault. However, the investigation did find that Spaeth acted unprofessionally and “disciplinary action” was taken.

“It’s a year later and I’m still trying to figure out what the heck he’s still doing here,” said Shaniqua Smith, the mom of the child who said Spaeth choked him last October. “They are innocent. They are just babies.”

“You all just letting this happen. Like, why?” she wondered of GRPS. “What, you’re not going to do nothing till he actually kills a child?”

Several parents gathered outside Kent Hills Monday morning in a show of support for Kaverrion and to put pressure on the district to fire the teacher. The district says the school was put on lockdown for 15 minutes because parents came into the school, cursing and yelling.

GRPS spokesperson John Helmholdt released the following statement Monday:

“On Sunday morning, the district was contacted with allegations about a teacher-student assault at Kent Hills Elementary.

“Public safety was immediately contacted and we started an investigation into the allegation. The teacher in question has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

“Unfortunately, we had an incident this morning where several parents entered the school using threatening and inappropriate language toward staff and public safety officers.

“As a precautionary measure to ensure students and staff were safe and not further exposed to the trauma of threatening and inappropriate language, the school was placed in a short, shelter-in-place. Public safety officers will remain on site for the rest of the day.

“The use of Facebook live in a school violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) rights of other students. Facebook live streaming in schools is not allowed without parent permission. Parents utilizing Facebook live in a school will be asked to cease the activity or leave the premises.

“We cannot stress enough how seriously we take any allegations related to teacher-student assaults. Our public safety team acted swiftly and we are in the process of conducting the investigation.

“Please know that we understand our parents’ concerns about these allegations. We know this is a highly sensitive matter and we have strict protocol for how we conduct investigations to protect the rights of our students and staff. We respectfully ask parents to provide us with the time and space to complete this investigation.”

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