LIMA — “If I could get my hands around your neck, you wouldn’t be here.”
Most students wouldn’t expect to hear that from a teacher. Nor would they expect red marks on their arm after goofing around in the hallway. But that happened, too — at the same school, with the same teacher, two years before.
The incidents haven’t gone unnoticed by Ottawa-Glandorf schools officials, according to the personnel report of the teacher — Lori Radcliff, also known as Lori Smith.
Paperwork regarding each incident was included in her file, first from elementary Principal Dean Brinkman, and then from Superintendent Don Horstman.
“The first goal of the district when dealing with any type of incident like this is to ensure the safety of the students,” Horstman said in an email.
The first incident was reported by the student in September 2012, who went to the principal’s office complaining that a teacher grabbed his arm with force and caused pain because he was tapping students on the opposite shoulder.
Admitting to the incident in her own own signed statement, Radcliff was concerned about nearby students and possible injury when the student was twirling around. She emailed his parents and apologized to the student at the end of the day.
“He and I came to an agreement,” she wrote.
Radcliff received a district reimbursement for $465 in April 2014 for an Augusta College course focusing on teaching, leadership, student relations, and classroom management. In July, she was reimbursed $485 for a course about postive learning environments and relationships.
And then came a second incident.
It was reported by a fellow student’s parent later the same year as the continuing education. According to a letter sent by Hortsman on Dec. 19, the incident took place Dec. 17. After Horstman and Brinkman began their investigation and had a discussion with Radcliff, the district decided to place her on paid administrative leave until the investigation was complete.
On Jan. 6, Radcliff admitted to threatening the student, followed by a written reprimand.
“While there is no evidence that you intended to carry out your threat and you deny any intent to carry out your threat, the statement, while made in frustration, showed very poor judgment and is unacceptable in the teaching profession,” Horstman wrote.
Consequently, Radcliff had to be assessed by a counselor trained in anger management by today. Radcliff also has to take anger management training, addressing ways to better control emotions when dealing with students.
Since then, Radcliff has returned to the classroom and will provide training updates.
Horstman said “the district is satisfied that Mrs. Radcliff is complying with the requirements of the letter of reprimand in the file and that “the district will continue to work with Mrs. Radcliff to address this issue, and to ensure no further problems occur.”
Radcliff has been an eighth grade social studies teacher at Ottawa Elementary School since the early 1990s. She’s received strong evaluations, describing her classroom as an “inviting place to be.” She’s been involved with extra-curricular activities, too, including organizing plays and coaching girls basketball.
Radcliff was unable to be reached for comment and did not reply to emails. In an email, Brinkman directed all questions regarding elementary personnel to the superintendent.