Documents released Friday by Akron Public Schools attorneys appear to contradict claims of innocence by a music teacher accused of using racial slurs in a Facebook rant about trick-or-treaters.
Among the records released Friday at the request of the Beacon Journal is a letter sent to Firestone High School teacher David Spondike indicating that he took responsibility for writing the racially-charged posts.
It also shows that Spondike was the first person to notify the Firestone principal and alert her of the impending tidal wave of criticism looming over his Facebook page.
The letter from Kathy McVey, the district’s human resources director, recounts Spondike’s meeting with Principal LaVonne Humphrey on the morning of Oct. 28.
“You notified [Humphrey] that people were upset about the comments you posted on your Facebook page and that the media may be contacting her about your Facebook postings,” McVey writes.
Letter versus videos
The district letter appears to contradict video statements Spondike uploaded to YouTube five days after the initial post went viral and made national news.
In one of the seven videos, the music teacher denies posting the rants and further claims he only learned of the Facebook posts when Humphrey called him to her office during the second class period, sometime after 9 a.m. on Oct. 28.
“I found out about the news story when I was sent home from work during my second-period class. The principal said I should leave for my own safety,” Spondike said in the video, that has since been deleted.
Spondike, 51, has not been back to school since that morning and is facing a disciplinary hearing next week.
Elsewhere in the videos, Spondike denies apologizing for writing the post, as the district contends he did. Rather, he said he only apologized for the rant appearing on his personal Facebook page.
To support his case, Spondike on Nov. 1 introduced YouTube viewers to a 19-year-old Painesville man, who claims he wrote the racially tinged post while visiting Spondike’s Copley Township home on Oct. 27.
The Painesville man, however, never takes responsibility for several subsequent Facebook posts and replies made in an effort to defend or explain the original post.
The posts were written well into the next morning on Oct. 28, including one around 5 a.m. before Spondike went to work.
Although Spondike complains in the videos about the media reporting on the Facebook story without his input, Spondike has not responded to numerous attempts by the Beacon Journal and other local news organizations to comment on the Facebook posts. He did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Posts and reactions
The initial Oct. 27 post attributed to Spondike reads: “I don’t mind if you come from the ghetto to trick or treat. But when you whip out your teeny [genitalia] and [urinate] on the telephone pole in front of my front yard and a bunch of preschoolers and toddlers, you can take your [N-word] ass back where it came from. I don’t have anything against anyone of color, but [racial slur] stay out.”
The post placed on Facebook came just after Copley concluded its trick-or-treating.
The letter, sent to Spondike on Friday to inform him about his Nov. 14 disciplinary, shows the emerging outrage in the Firestone community as parents, students, staff and the media learned of the posts spreading that Monday morning.
“...the subsequent reaction by the school community has been nothing short of outrage, causing a substantial disruption of the school environment. Phone calls were pouring in from angry parents, community members and reporters due to your posted comments.
“The amount of phone calls caused the Firestone office staff to become overwhelmed — hindering their ability to do their ordinary morning duties...”
Call-takers at the main central office switchboard were also flooded with citizens “who were extremely angry about your Facebook postings.”
“Racial tension is a very serious concern at Firestone and you were removed from the school...not only because of the disruption that your comments were causing the school environment, but also for your own personal safety.”
The letter asserts that Spondike’s “inflammatory racial comments....could have a serious detrimental impact on your ability to have a working relationship with your co-workers, students and parents.”
Along with the letter, schools officials released emails from citizens and parents concerned about the posts. They also released an email from school communications chief Mark Williamson alerting school board members of the issue.
The email states that Spondike “crossed the line and used flawed judgment in the way he vented his anger via social media.”
“While we all may have the right to say what we feel in any forum we like, there are always consequences,” Williamson wrote.
Those consequences include the disciplinary hearing that could lead to Spondike’s firing and a referral to the Ohio Department of Education, which issues state licenses to teachers.
“By virtue of his license to teach, he has a code of behavior he has to meet,” the email concludes.