BOARDMAN — While the Boardman School District is ready to focus on healing after an incident in which an aide stapled a note to a disabled child, the boy’s family and supporters are still seeking accountability from the district.
Thousands of supporters convened online to support Macade Myers, a 10-year-old student with autism, after an aide stapled a note to his head or hair when he forgot to bring his water bottle to class on Jan. 19. The exact location of the stapling is in dispute.
Several dozen local members of “Macade’s Army” gathered outside Boardman High School on Monday night ahead of the school board meeting to protest the district’s handling of the incident. They brought cases of water "so no child will fear being stapled in the head for forgetting their water.”
Many of the folks who braved the cold are parents and grandparents of autistic children, like Brenda Staffrey, whose son has autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.
"Looking at him, you would never know it," she said.
"I moved from Poland after they hurt my son, and I couldn't get any justice," said Staffrey. "I basically was pushed out of the district, because you can't fight a school district ... The chief of police brushed it under the rug."
Supporters of Macade say Boardman School District did the same thing.
Macade's aunt, Sheri Hartley addressed the board on behalf of the family: "[Macade] was sent home and nobody from the district ever called my sister to let her know what happened. At every level the district has failed Macade."
"The time for minimizing what happened to Macade has passed," Hartley said.
The aide received a letter of reprimand two days after the incident. In a Feb. 8 interview on 21 WFMJ-TV — the district's first public statement about the incident — Superintendent Tim Saxton said, "This is not how we expect students to be treated."
He explained the disciplinary action taken, and said, "We felt the decision was reasonable and was aligned with the act."
The aide was later put on administrative leave.
An attorney for Macade’s mother Sheli Myer accused Saxton of downplaying the incident. In response, the district issued a statement saying Saxton acted on information available at the time.
The Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office announced Friday night in a news release that the aide would not be charged in exchange for her resignation.
But supporters of Macade say the aide’s resignation is not enough.
"She needs her permit gone. She should never work with children again. She should not be getting a pension from the school," said Tina Santucci, who helped organize the rally. "And, at this point, Tim Saxton should be resigning as well. He's created a culture in this school that is unacceptable."
Saxton has the support of the board, said board president Vicky Davis in her opening statement. She resolutely decried the incident, and said, "It does not reflect who we are."
The district will focus on "restoring the trust that has been broken with this family." Davis added the district plans to review its investigative and disciplinary practices.
"The focus now is going to be on healing," said Saxton. "We have a division, and we need to heal. We've got to earn some trust back."
in response to calls that he resign, Saxton said, "I want Boardman to be successful, and, as the leader of Boardman, of course, I will take this to heart. I will reflect. I will learn. I will grow."
During the meeting, the board accepted the aide's resignation. Davis said the board was prepared to consider the aide's dismissal at their Monday meeting had she not resigned beforehand.