Special education teacher Willie Swindle, named 2011 educator of the year in California's North Bay school district, is still teaching in the same classroom following allegations that he physically struck students.
Michael Delgado is one of Swindle's students at Santa Rosa High School. He tells KGO-TV that Swindle would take him into the hall for a "pow wow," during which the 67-year-old teacher would use both hands to smack the teen's ears with force.
Swindle is denying the allegations and calls them unfounded. When the district was pressed to look into the matter, witnesses said Swindle tickled students and would "flick," "pinch" and "pull" Delgado's ears.
The report notes, "One witness also reported seeing Mr. Swindle clap Michael on both cheeks with his open palms while they were standing facing each other in the classroom. ... Michael said, 'Ouch', and then no more than five minutes later, Mr. Swindle came back to Michael from behind and slapped his cheeks again," according to KGO-TV.
Still, Swindle is back in the classroom, and Delgado's parents are upset, calling the teacher's actions a crime. Police tell KGO-TV that the district is not cooperating with an external investigation by refusing to turn in the name of a key witness. Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Mark Klick tells the station that "action was taken" to prevent future incidents and the district has "fulfilled our disclosure requirements."
The allegations against Swindle come amid numerous accusations across the nation of mistreatment of students with special needs. Most recently in Florida, Osceola County teacher Pranee Andrus was accused of threatening to cut off students' tongues and dragging Phoenix Hanson, a 5-year-old boy with autism, across the floor.
And at Webster Elementary School in Michigan, special education teacher Sharon Turbiak has been dismissed for allegedly "slapping, grabbing and force feeding special-needs preschoolers in her classroom, among other unprofessional classroom management practices."
Turbiak has denied the allegations and is appealing the decision.