An Ellet High School special education teacher continues to defend herself against accusations of inappropriate behavior toward mentally challenged students.
Michelle Blain was scheduled to appear before the Ohio State Board of Education in Columbus on Thursday for the first of three hearings to probe allegations of physical and verbal abuse.
The hearing has been delayed until February at the request of the teacher’s attorney. Blain, meanwhile, remains on staff and is still teaching at Ellet.
She is accused of calling a handicapped student “retard and stupid,” pushing a wheelchair-bound student and slapping an autistic student in the groin area, according to a notice sent to Blain by the state board in April.
The incidents occurred between 2009 and 2011 and Blain was suspended from April to June of 2011 while Akron Public Schools and the Children’s Services Board held separate investigations based on allegations made by an educational aide.
Blain “adamantly denied all of the allegations,” according to statement provided by Akron Public Schools.
Rhonda Porter, general counsel for Akron schools, said the investigations did not substantiate any of the claims.
Though both investigations found no wrongdoing, Superintendant David James said the ultimate decision on Blain’s employment would come from the state board after the February hearing.
Akron attorney Lawrence Vuillemin, who represents Blain, said he will base his defense on the lack of evidence which led to the failure of two previous investigations to substantiate the allegations.
After the hearing in Columbus, state-appointed hearing officer Mary Crawford will make a recommendation to board members on whether to pursue revocation of Blain’s teaching license. The board would then vote on the matter.
Stacie Snowberger, the aide who brought the allegations before school officials, and Blain, an educator in the district since 1997, are still employed in the Akron school system.
Vuillemin requested the continuance “as a result of last minute information provided me by the Ohio Department of Education.” He would not identify the reason for the continuance.
An Akron parent, Janis Knoble, first notified the Beacon Journal of the case earlier this year. Knoble has said she is unhappy with Blain’s treatment of her son — a former student. She also said that the continuance was issued after the state board brought charges against an aide who was subpoenaed by Vuillemin to testify in favor of Blain.
As of Friday afternoon, a request for information regarding any charges against that aide were unanswered by the Ohio Department of Education.
Doug Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330 996-3792.