After reportedly calling a disabled student a "psychopath" and joking that a Latino teen was destined to be a gardener, a Pennsylvania high school principal lost his job Thursday, following a six month public outcry for his resignation.
The Oxford Area School District board accepted the resignation of Oxford Area High School principal David C. Madden on Thursday, ending a six month battle that outraged parents and students, The Providence Journal reported.
"We're thrilled," said Chrissie Shelly, a parent who complained to state education authorities that Madden treated her son, who has cystic fibrosis, unfairly because of his illness. "We're sad to see a man's career gone, but we're thrilled for the children of Oxford and their futures."
According to Oxford's Avon Grove Sun newspaper, the announcement was made as the final item on the board agenda addressing personnel. It was a brief statement for approval: “The resignation of Dr. Madden effective June 30, 2013 and the agreement related thereto.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that it all started during a meeting in December with the family of a bipolar child and a special-education advocate, Lisa Lightner of the Arc of Chester County, who was sitting next to Madden when she happened to glance at his phone and read an insult he was texting to another administrator. She said in the text Madden used an an obscenity in referring to the teen and labeled him a "manipulator."
The dominoes kept falling from there. The Arc of Chester County, which provides services to the disabled, requested all Madden's communications in reference to the student when the advocate at the meeting reported it to her supervisor. The Arc of Chester County found out that Madden's text during the meeting was just the tip of a very deep iceberg. Not only did that request uncover other belittling messages about the teen, but exposed other similar messages about other special-education students.
It appears as though even the superintendent was fair game. In one e-mail Madden wrote of him: "Ray is an absolute liar and manipulator and I am not going to take it from him. He better pray I don't snap one day/night."
The school's director of special education, who had headed Oxford Area High School since 2005, Jenny LeSage, quit last spring rather than work for Madden.
Some of Madden's emails were first made public in March. Despite growing calls from special-education parents and superintendent Raymond A. Fischer that Madden lose his job, the principal's allies on the school board initially suspended him for four months instead, The Inquirer said.
He not only had allies on the school board, but in the student body as well. Madden, a former Marine was popular with many students and teachers.
Besides a "Save Dave" Facebook page that had more than 400 supporters, The Inquirer reported that many people wore "Save Dave" buttons to school board meetings to help fight to keep his job. In addition to that, a petition was started on change.org to "Re-Instate Dr. David Madden to his position as OASH Principal."
It seemed to work. Although Madden was absent from the school through the spring, he appeared at graduation in June and was returned to the principal’s position in the high school on July 1. The outrage began all over again.
Everyone makes mistakes in life
Some parents like Paul Matthews, whose son is in 10th grade, have seen the good in Madden and thinks that he deserves another chance.
"Everyone makes mistakes in life," he told the Inquirer. "We all get frustrated and say things and do things we don't mean to say. I don't think it's worth ruining this man's career who has so much love for that school and kids."
But another parent, Bill Winand, who has two children in the district, neither in special education told the Inquirer he was baffled that it took this long.
"If I would have said something like that to one of my clients," said the sales manager, referring to Madden's e-mails, "my boss would have fired me in a second."