Lewiston, New York: Joan Donatelli, a 59-year-old retired teacher, spent her retirement years knitting, substitutue teaching and snorting cocaine. Unfortunately, she decided to combine the latter two one day while substituting in a fourth-grade class. Two students reported to police that they saw her repeatedly dip a pen cap into a plastic bag full of white powder and snort it as they sat less than five feet away. Police confronted Donatelli at her home, and she confessed. She was sentenced to 100 hours of community service — presumably not involving children.
Greensboro, North Carolina: Maybe rookie high school teacher Robert Bullard wasn’t the right man for the job of leading a life skills class that included conflict resolution. Less than three months into his term, he resigned after physically attacking a 14-year-old student, punching him in the face several times before other students pulled him away. Bullard pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to 150 days in jail and placed on probation for five years. It turns out that he had a previous criminal record for breaking a man’s arm with a trophy. We’re guessing it wasn’t a Teacher of the Year trophy.
Beijin, China: Many students have to wash chalkboards, desks and the occasional window at school, but one elementary school in China is taking the chore of window washing to the extreme by having kids wash windows up to three stories high by balancing on a four-inch-wide ledge without any safety equipment whatsoever. School officials claim it promotes bravery. Others say it promotes death.
Murfreesboro, Tennessee: Less than a month after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting rampage, teachers leading a group of 70 sixth-grade students on a field trip to a state park decided that the time was right to play a prank on the kids by telling them that a mad gunman was on the loose. For five minutes, the students lay on the floor and hid under tables, panicking, crying and praying as a teacher, dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, pulled on doorknobs and knocked on windows to scare the kids. The students were eventually let off the hook, but their parents weren’t amused. The teachers apologized, claiming that the ordeal was designed to teach the kids how to react a similar situation. Lesson learned: never trust a teacher.
Palm Harbor, Florida: A high school freshman who frequented a school vending machine was surprised one day to find that the apple juice he normally drank had a foul smell and taste. Apparently, two bored yet mechanically gifted fellow students had broken into the machine, stolen a bottle of apple juice, replaced the liquid with their own urine and placed the bottle back inside. Tips led police to the offenders, who confessed and were arrested. The entire machine was replaced. Just in case.
Toronto, Canada: Elementary school principal Maria Pantalone, 49, pleaded guilty to tossing feces at a child because she “couldn’t take it anymore.” Although the child wasn’t one of her students, she was suspended (with pay) and mandated to stay away from children under the age of 16 before being transferred to another school. The real tragedy, however, is that due to a media ban on the case, we may never know who’s poo it was and how it came into her possession.
Lexington, South Carolina: Drama teacher Harold Skinner could at the very least be accused of being overly “dramatic” when, as part of a lesson on improvisation, he grabbed a male student from behind and “dry humped” him repeatedly with his pelvis, simulating what was supposed to be gorilla sex. The student failed to see the wacky humor and reported the incident to the police, who arrested Skinner on a charge of simple assault and battery.
Skowhegan, Maine: Julie Hunt, 43, apparently had beef with her 13-year-old daughter’s teacher, so she helped her make cookies containing crush Ex-Lax pills, with a note reading “We made these cookies especially for you, hope you enjoy them.” Finding the cookies on her desk, the teacher, as teachers are apt to do, gave the snacks to her class. (Presumably, the girl was “full” at the time.) When the students became ill, the plot was exposed. Hunt was ordered to perform 50 hours of community service for the prank.
Greensburg, Pennsylvania: Fifteen-year-old Cody Webb was arrested for phoning in a bomb threat to his high school’s student hotline at 3:17 AM one morning. School officials knew that they had the right person because they traced a hotline call at that exact time to Webb’s phone. The only problem was that the school had forgotten to set its clocks that morning to Daylight Savings Time; Webb had actually made his call an hour earlier, at 2:17 AM. Unfortunately for him, school officials didn’t realize their mistake until he’d spent 12 days in a juvenile detention facility.
Phoenix, Arizona: A high school photography teacher forgot the number one rule of viewing inappropriate material on your computer at work: make sure you’re not hooked up to a projector. That’s exactly what happened to the hapless instructor as he took time out from his lecture to view bondage videos on his laptop. Unfortunately for everyone involved, his class was also privy to his fetish, and reportedly, he was so “into it” that he didn’t notice for a full 20 minutes, even when students commented. In a related story, the school is now looking for a qualified photography teacher.
KunMing Province, China: A sad side effect of China’s increasing openness to capitalism and Western businesses: school uniforms emblazoned with corporate sponsorships. Even sadder: one major sponsor is Marlboro.
Missoula, Montana: One day, for no explained reason, high school business teacher Dan Kucera put a male student in a headlock and sucked on his neck, causing a bruise. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and resigned, claiming he “made a stupid mistake.”
Chandler, Arizona: Tragedy and irony collided when a first grader decided to play with a cigarette lighter as his teacher read the class a book on fire safety. He received minor to second-degree burns on his back.
Bellefontaine, Ohio: Fourth-grade teacher Amber Carter, 35, had a spotless 13-year record in education until it was discovered that she had a side job…as a prostitute. To make matters worse, she skipped class to meet a client, using a school computer to arrange the meeting. In her defense, she still has a spotless record as a prostitute.
Lorain, Ohio: It all seemed innocent enough: private school principal Robert Holloway makes a bet with three 14-year-old students on a friendly student-teacher volleyball game, and if he loses, he has to pay the students $15 and kiss their feet. He did so, but ended up kissing the boys’ feet 50 TIMES each. Creeped out, the students told their parents, who notified the authorities, who in turn found 400 foot fetish photos on Holloway’s school computer. He resigned and later received two years’ probation for “sexual imposition.”
Ephrata, Washington: Depending on your point of view, middle school science teacher Gary Weddle, 46, is either patriotic or insane. Maybe a bit of both. And probably marginally unhygienic. Since the September 11 attacks of 2001, he has vowed to avoid shaving until Osama bin Laden is caught, “even if I get buried with it.” Years later, his beard is still going strong. His wife is not as pleased with his determination as he is.
Washington, DC: Sign of the times: the National Education Association now offers teachers “unlawful homicide” insurance, worth $150,000 if they’re murdered on the job. They receive only $50,000 for accidental deaths.
Pensacola, Florida: Middle school gym teacher Terence Braxton, 28, took bribes from his students for four months, allowing them to sit out of class for $1 per day. When a parent caught wind of the scheme, Braxton retired and was charged with felony bribery, receiving three years’ probation and 300 hours of community service. Only six of his students pressed charges, claiming to have paid him around $230 total. It’s presumed they were all nerds.
Fugong, China: The next time your grandfather rambles on about walking to school in the snow uphill both ways, show him this story. For years, nearly 500 students from a small Chinese village had to cross a 600-foot-wide raging river on a zip line every day just to get to and from school. Parents typically accompanied the smaller kids, but once they turned FIVE, they were on their own. After a TV show profiled their tribulation, enough money was raised to build a slightly sturdier rope bridge.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: A high school biology teacher asked three students to “take one for the team” and masturbate so that the class can study sperm under a microscope. Despite the scientific ramifications, they refused.