The Rapidian Home

Community members call for accountability from GRPS regarding assault investigations against personnel, heater issues at Union High

At the Grand Rapids Public School Board of Education meeting on Monday, November 19, 2018 community members including Passionelle McBride and Shaniqua Walker, mothers of the two boys who've accused a teacher of choking them, advocated for an independent investigation into the allegations.
November 19, 2018 GRPS Board of Education meeting

November 19, 2018 GRPS Board of Education meeting /Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard

November 19, 2018 GRPS Board of Education meeting

November 19, 2018 GRPS Board of Education meeting /Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard

The Grand Rapids Board of Education held its bi-monthly meeting on Monday, November 19, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. in the Administration Building.

Eleven community members spoke during the public comment time, most concerned with the investigations surrounding teacher Robert Spaeth, and incident at Westwood Middle School, and the continued heater problems at Union High School.

Kent Hills Elementary school teacher Robert Spaeth has been accused of choking students twice in the last two years, most recently in October of this year. He was not disciplined by the Grand Rapids Public School district and transferred to Sibley Elementary School. The district said there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation. Security at Westwood Middle School was also recently accused of handcuffing and slapping a child in mid-October. Union High School has had problems with its heating since last April when two heat exchangers failed. The district had to use space heaters again this fall when another furnace heat exchanger failed in a differnt part of the building.

During public comment, Passionelle McBride, mother of eight-year-old Kaverrion McBride, the second student to accuse Spaeth said, “I would like an outside investigation as far as my son and Robert Spaeath and the temperatures in Union High School. That’s it.”

Shaniqua Walker also spoke, with her son Zakari Smith next to her. “He was one of the students last year that was choked by Spaeth, classroom full of witnesses and nothing was done.” She added, “I’m trying to figure out if we can get an outside investigation because I’m pretty sure if it was one of your children you would want to fight or get justice for it as well. The fact that this man is constantly getting away with putting his hands on children-it’s assault. If it was me, if it was Kaverrion’s mother, people would be trying to take our children from us.”

Sharon Prince, who identified herself as a GRPS parent said she was, “Deeply concerned about the outcomes of the two recent investigations conducted at Kent Hills and Westwood Middle.” Her questions included, “What are the standards or protocol for conducting for these investigations? Are these internal investigations and if so, are they performed by GRPS? And if so, how is an investigation done by the district, objective, fair and thorough? Why don’t we have an outside party that is completely independent from the district conducting these investigations?”

Prince also said she was the temp secretary in the office the day the school security officer was accused of handcuffing and slapping a student at Westwood Middle School. "Based on what I witnessed and heard that day I was surprised when I saw the news that the officer involved was cleared of any wrongdoing.” Prince says she heard the student say “Don’t touch me!” from the same room and yelling and screaming from the security office after he had been removed to the security room.

Prince and others called for more security cameras at schools, especially in the security offices, and an independent investigation into complaints against teachers and school security, and a temperature check into the affected rooms in Union High School.

This board meeting can be viewed on the school’s YouTube channel here. The next board meeting will be held Monday, December 3, 2018 at 6:30 p.m.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.