Wednesday night, the Chico Unified School Board unanimously voted to terminate a teacher's contract. The district is prohibited from publicly commenting on personnel matters, but a former student of music teacher Dan Holmes attended the board's open session shortly afterwards, and said Holmes no longer has a job. "I understand protecting students' safety," said Diane Fisher, "but it's also his job to protect other students in class, and that's why he was trying to get the student to calm down." The student she is referring to is Jason German, 11, a 6th grader with well-known anger management issues.
German's mother said her son's life has been filled with health problems. He had open heart surgery when he was just a few months old. His heart rate doesn't rise as it's supposed to during a stress test, and his breastplate bones are fragile from surgery, so he is unable to receive CPR in an emergency. That's why in February, she says, when Jason's music teacher pushed him to the floor as Jason was experiencing a fit of anger, she was very upset. She said she was shocked, because the teachers and principal at Parkview Elementary had been so helpful with Jason's issues. It was the first school she thought was able to help him figure out how to deal with his rage. When he felt his rage build, he was told to leave the classroom and head to the office to cool down, away from other students.
Mr. Holmes has not responded to our request for an interview. But he has hundreds of supporters, including many former students who say they never witnessed any behavior that was anything other than supportive and caring. They have created a Facebook page called "I Stand with Dan Holmes," which had more than 500 likes within a few days.
Jason said he is glad Mr. Holmes has lost his job, because he said he didn't want another student to go through what he did. He described the events of that day in February, when he accidentally stepped on a sheet of music. "'He started yelling at me," said Jason. "I started walking to go to the office, and he blocked me from the door, a couple of times, and I tried going around him, and he grabbed me and slammed me into my chair. I got back up and he threw me onto the ground."
Mr. Holmes has disputed that version of what happened in an open letter to his friends. In it, he said he was guiding the enraged child back to his chair, when Jason kicked the legs out from underneath, and the boy fell to the floor.
Jason's mother Kimberly Tyler spoke to the principal, who interviewed other students in the class shortly after the incident. Tyler said the principal told her the children corroborated Jason's version. But Fisher doesn't believe it. She said, "I can't even imagine him using excessive force. He's a calm man. I think these allegations are a little excessive."
Mr. Holmes has asked the district for a hearing. Jason has asked his mother if he could be home-schooled next year, and she said yes.