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Special education teacher disciplined for calling students ‘maggots’

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Posted at 5:57 PM, Jul 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-16 17:57:38-04

By BEAU BERMAN/FOXCT

HARTFORD, Conn. (FOXCT) — A special education teacher is in serious trouble regarding an email in which she calls her own students offensive names.

In a May email obtained by FOX CT through an open records request, special education teacher Gwendolyn Fenton writes the following statement to a friend:

“I am having an awful day with the monkeys I am supposed to teach. I would have a better time teaching gorillas to sign than this maggots (sic).”

Fenton has taught for decades, many of her years spent at Hartford schools. She currently leads a classroom of kids at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.

FOX CT’s Beau Berman visited her Hartford home Wednesday afternoon to ask about the email.

Berman: Hi, Gwendolyn?

Fenton: No.

Berman: Is she here? Gwendolyn?

Fenton: No.

While she wouldn’t even say hello at her door, later on by phone, she admitted to sending the email.

“I’m embarrassed. That’s not who I am, I don’t know how it was given to you but it is not what the district expects of me and not what I expected for myself. It was out of a level of frustration,” said Fenton.

Her frustration may have only escalated after clicking send, now that she’s in trouble with the district after administration found out she sent the email, using her district email address nonetheless.

District Spokesman, David Medina, says Ms. Fenton has been placed on administrative leave with pay, pending investigation.

“I referred to them inappropriately. That is not the kind of person that I am,” said Fenton by phone.

The State’s Office of the Child Advocate agrees the comments were inappropriate.

“I feel sick that any school person and educator, particularly a special educator would ever, ever, express such a thought about children,” said Assistant Child Advocate, Mickey Kramer.

Meanwhile, Devon Palmer, a student at the school back in May when the email was sent, defended Ms. Fenton, even after we showed him the email in which she called her students monkeys and maggots.

“She’s a very wonderful teacher. She’s wonderful,” said Palmer.

He says behavior problems are so widespread at the school that it’s actually commonplace for teachers to complain about students.

“I didn’t know she would write something like that but I can honestly think that she would say something like that because she gets mad. Those students I remember one time, they almost jumped her,” said Palmer.

Hartford Public Schools tell us that Fenton had a disciplinary hearing scheduled for Thursday, July 11.