‘Go back to your country,’ Middle school teacher suspended for ‘unprofessional’ conduct

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CHARDON, Ohio – There’s upheaval in an Ohio school district over a teacher’s actions that left him suspended for three days at the beginning of January, according to WJW.

The Chardon Local Schools Board of Education suspended 25-year veteran science teacher Steve Patterson without pay for unprofessional statements to a student at Chardon Middle School.

Board members signed a resolution detailing the matter and finalizing his suspension at their meeting on January 16. According to the resolution, on November 14, 2017, a student corrected Patterson for mispronouncing her name and he responded to her by saying “go back to your country.” The resolution goes on to say Patterson acknowledged making the comment and said he was trying to “kid with her.”

Also on November 14, the resolution said Patterson reprimanded a student for chewing gum and, without an administrator present, searched the student’s pencil pouch and sweatshirt front pocket.

“Mr. Patterson has a history or pattern of unprofessional conduct toward students, including both physical actions and verbal statements,” the resolution said.

The resolution outlines four past incidents dating back to 2010. According to the resolution, after each incident, the district issued either a verbal or written reprimand to Patterson.

The resolution makes note of an incident on March 31, 2010 where Patterson made a comment referring to “dumb blondes." It also said he used a profanity while talking to his class. Then, on December 20, 2012, Patterson allegedly responded to a student who was “giving attitude” by saying “Do you not want to work with him because he is black?”

On January 26, 2017, the resolution said, in response to a student asking Patterson if he “was a dictator like Hitler,” Patterson said, “If I was Hitler, does that mean I put you in an oven?”

"As a district, we expect and find that our personnel exhibit high levels of professionalism in all settings," the district said, in an email to WJW. “We will continue to hold all staff members accountable using our progressive discipline process if and when they fail to meet our expectations.”

The district went through a thorough investigative process.

“When employee conduct is called into question, the district follows a progressive discipline process: verbal reprimand, written reprimand, suspension without pay and establishing a clear line of expectations that future conduct of this type will not be tolerated and will result in termination,” it said.

“Mr. Patterson is unwilling or unable to recognize the seriousness of his wrongdoing,” the school board resolution said. “Mr. Patterson demonstrated a willful noncompliance with reasonable directives, written instructions, district policies and Ohio law."

According to the resolution, Patterson appeared before the superintendent to explain why he should not be disciplined.

The school district is now requiring Patterson complete ethics and communication training courses. They have made a referral to the Ohio Department of Education Office of Professional Conduct.