BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Two more couples and a former student have come forward with allegations of abuse at the hands of a Fort Madison school official.
At Monday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison School Board, Brian Wright, Amy and Kevin Wellman, Melissa Boyd, and former student Seth Wright all spoke to the school board in the public comment period of the meeting about the alleged abuses.
As has been school board protocol, the board allowed each person three minutes to speak. Board President Tim Wondra also asked those addressing the board not use the names of any parties associated with the reported incidents due to confidentiality. However several of the speakers brought the names out in the public meeting, including the names of their children.
Wright then said Fort Madison Middle School Principal Todd Dirth had assaulted his daughter by grabbing her arm and leaving a bruise, when his daughter didn’t say good morning to school officials on the way in to school back in September.
“This is in regards to the last meeting I came to in regards to the physical assault of my daughter Brianna at the hands of Todd Dirth,” Wright said.
He pointed to several school policy codes that he believes the school violated in conducting the investigation.
Wright said according to school policy section 402.3-R-1, a Level 1 investigator, or the superintendent of the district, upon a report of alleged abuse, will file a report of which a copy is required to be provided to the parents of the student in addition to other parties. Then within five days an informal investigation is to take place including an interview with the student.
Wright said neither of those two requirements were met by the district.
The policy also states that, “Upon completion of the report, if the Level I investigator determines the allegations of physical abuse are founded and serious, the Level I investigator will notify law enforcement authorities. If the allegations are founded but the physical abuse is not of a serious nature, the Level I investigator will refer the case on to the Level II investigator.”
Wright contends that the district did not refer the incident to a Level II officer, which is the district’s school resource officer. Wright said he questioned the school’s resource officer seven months after the incident and was told the school never referred the issue to the SRO.
Heather Wellman also spoke to the board about her son who was slapped in the back of the head by Dirth. Wellman said Dirth admitted to slapping her son in the back of the head as he walked by.
“Obviously, if we had done more, more kids wouldn’t be getting assaulted by him,” she said.
Wellman said she went to the police and they told her it wasn’t an assault because there was no mark. Wellman said a whole class saw the alleged incident because her son had walked up to the school and had to walk back to the back of the class line.
Seth Wright, who went to the school years ago at the former middle school, said Dirth “plucked” a safety pin from his lip that he was wearing to keep a piercing closed while he was eating.
“I was approached by the person in question and was asked to take it out and I reminded him of a meeting my parents had with him two days before and he decided to pluck it out gouging my lip and then immediately had me restrained.”
Wright said to know this is still going on was ridiculous and if the district has a zero tolerance district, the issues need to be addressed and district officials aren’t doing their job if nothing is being done.
Melissa Boyd has a special needs child in the district who had gotten out of control in 2012 as a sixth grader. Boyd, a former employee of the district, admitted her son had behavioral issues.
She said her son was having a melt down in class and said her son was out of instructional support control and Dirth was called down to the class that had been cleared. Dirth held her son down on the floor to restrain him and had his face held into the cement floor. She said her son indicated he couldn’t breathe and Dirth wouldn’t relent. She said there was another issue the same day, where Dirth used a chair to restrain her son “as a lion tamer would”.
Dirth has not been charged with assault in any of the cases and law enforcement was notified in each of the case.
District officials have declined to comment on the issue citing confidentiality laws regarding personal and personnel information.