Confrontations Lead To CES Principal’s Firing
Central Elementary School principal Ralph Haynes (center) receives hugs from parents, teachers, and students upset with his firing on Thursday, March 15.
Mike Perleberg-Eagle 99.3
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Dozens of teachers, students, and parents showed up to support Lawrenceburg Central Elementary School principal Ralph Haynes Thursday night.
There was no support for Haynes from those who would decide to fire him. The Lawrenceburg Community Schools Board of Trustees voted 7-0 to terminate the school corporation’s contract with the eight-year principal.
Haynes attended the meeting. He had not been in the building since February 13, when a letter was sent home to parents stating he was placed on administrative leave indefinitely.
The meeting in Greendale Middle School lasted less than five minutes as Haynes’ teacher and principal contract was the only item on the agenda.
As the meeting ended, Haynes’ supporters began to address the board members, demanding to have their thoughts heard and wanting to know why the principal was being fired.
“Excuse me. Is there like an explanation or anything which goes to the parents of the school? My kids are devastated,” said one parent.
But the school board could not comment, said school corporation attorney Lisa Lehner, citing state law prohibiting board members and administrators from speaking about personnel matters.
“State law does not require the board to receive public comment,” Lehner said.
When asked after the meeting, Haynes also declined to comment on the reason for his firing.
“I’d like to thank everybody for coming,” he said as he left.
A request was made by Eagle 99.3 to the school district administration for the findings of fact referenced in the school board’s decision. The document was the outcome of a five hour meeting the evening of March 12 with the board members, superintendent Karl Galey, Haynes, and other witnesses.
The investigation alleges Haynes had a documented history of anger management issues.
According to the findings of fact, “On March 14, 2011 Haynes confronted two male students who had been talking without permission and grabbed one of the students in the CES cafeteria and in heated conversation got in their faces and yelled at them both leading one of the students to cry. Haynes said that particular student always cried when being disciplined.”
One of the witnesses to the incident testified that he once say Haynes hit a student on the forehead with the bottom of his palm and another time he saw Haynes drag a student out of a room by his ear.
Haynes never denied that testimony, the findings of fact stated.
After the altercation, Galey met with Haynes and told him that he needed to evaluate and balance his sternness in disciplining students.
Another incident occurred April 29, 2011 when a student fell asleep during ISTEP testing.
“Haynes admitted he lost his temper and that he grabbed the student and put him up against the wall in the cafeteria placing his arms on both sides of the student.”
There was conflicting testimony, however, on whether Haynes had head-butted the student.
READ THE FINDINGS OF FACT DOCUMENT HERE (PDF).
Days later, Galey met with Haynes again to discuss his anger issues when disciplining students. Haynes was placed on probation and was mandated to enroll in anger management counseling, begin keeping a written log of his daily and weekly school activities, and was assigned a mentor administrator.
Haynes was also told he could not place his hands on a student for disciplinary measures or get into a student’s personal space to yell at them. A violation of those terms would lead to disciplinary action against him, including termination.
On February 9, Haynes was dealing with an autistic nine-year-old student who had been turning on water faucets in the cafeteria.
The findings of fact said conflicting evidence was presented whether Haynes grabbed the student’s arm or simply took the child’s arm. The child somehow ended up on the floor, but a witness said they had turned away and could not tell if Haynes pulled the child to the ground.
Haynes did admit to placing his hand on the student, a violation of the terms he had been given by Galey following the April 2011 altercation. He also admitted to not recording the incident in his required daily log.
Haynes was placed on administrative leave with pay pending investigation four days later. He was told by Galey not to contact any staff members, but during the March 12 meeting admitted to calling and texting two staff members after first telling the superintendent he had not.
Six witnesses testified at the closed-door hearing in favor of Haynes. They stated the principal had a positive impact on the school corporation.
Haynes’ attorney has also suggested that the order not to contact staff members during his leave precluded his due process rights to defend himself against the allegations.
The findings of fact was signed by all seven school board members at Thursday’s meeting.
Many of the supporters who came cried and hugged Haynes afterwards, including some of his recent elementary school students.
As the meeting ended, Lawrenceburg High School teacher Bob Brookbank stood up and spoke.
“The best way to address this is to vote…,” Brookbank said. “…Vote for change.”