The McKinley High School teacher who was suspended after being assaulted by a student last month is being returned to work — but at a different school.
District officials informed the teacher on Friday that he can return to work after next week’s February break, but that he has been reassigned to Leonardo Da Vinci High School on Porter Avenue.
The teacher is angry about the involuntary transfer and the Buffalo Teachers Federation plans to file a grievance, said BTF President Philip Rumore.
“This punishing of a victim will not stand,” Rumore said in a prepared statement. “The superintendent, the School Board and all involved have sent a message to all students: You can viciously attack a teacher and the teacher will be punished.”
The incident happened in early January, after the teacher took away the student’s cell phone for listening to music during class. The confrontation escalated and, at some point, the 14-year-old freshman allegedly tried to grab his phone from the teacher’s pocket, before slamming him over a chair, causing cuts and bruises to the teacher’s back, according to the union.
The student was arrested by police and suspended from school, but the teacher also was placed on paid administrative leave pending further investigation by the school district. Officials said the altercation was being wrongly portrayed by the union and speculated there was more to the story.
Rumore on Friday said the district accused the teacher of “things that he didn’t do.”
Nathaniel J. Kuzma, general counsel for the school district, did not provide further details about the district's investigation, but disagreed with Rumore's position that the transfer was a punishment.
After the assault, the teacher made numerous public comments that he didn’t feel safe at McKinley, Kuzma said.
“He had the right to voice his opinion, but he made those statements and that’s how he felt,” Kuzma said. “We’re not going to subject him to a place that he feels he’s not safe and, in that context, the decision was made to transfer him to a different school.”
The assault reignited tensions between the teachers union and administrators at McKinley, which have been brewing for over a year.
“When the truth about what happened and what is happening at McKinley High School is known, those involved in this cover-up and despicable action will be held accountable,” Rumore said.