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Parents want tougher action on principal

| Thursday, Nov. 10, 2005

Whatever undisclosed action the Elizabeth Forward School District has taken against an elementary school principal who humiliated a third-grader in front of the entire school isn't enough because the principal still is in a position to harm other students, a dozen angry parents told members of the school board Wednesday night.

They attended the meeting to push the board into taking tougher action against William Penn Elementary School Principal Marlene Whitby.

"She abuses them, and you are going to let her do it," said Ryan White, 31, of Forward. He is the father of Katie White, 8, who was paraded throughout the school last month while Whitby accused her of theft.

White said that last month another girl accused his daughter of stealing $5 while they were riding the school bus. When Whitby learned of the accusation, she didn't talk to the bus driver or look at video from on the bus to verify it, he said.

Instead, the principal dragged Katie from classroom to classroom and identified her as a thief and a liar to other students, White said.

The girl who accused Katie of theft later recanted her story.

School board President Lowell Meek told White that he understands White's anger and that school officials are following the process to "appropriately" handle the issue.

White disagreed. "If you understood my anger, she would be gone," he said.

Several other parents at the meeting also questioned why Whitby has been allowed to remain as principal during the district's investigation.

Forward Supervisor Tom DeRosa, the father of a third-grader, asked why it has taken school officials a month to investigate an incident witnessed by nearly every student and employee in the school.

"There's no mystery about what happened. ... It should have taken one day," he said.

School board members refused to discuss what disciplinary action has been or might be taken against Whitby.

The board met behind closed doors before holding its monthly public work session, and during the executive session the board received a report on Whitby from Superintendent Paul Mueller.

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