By Pat Maurer
No charges will be filed against a Clare teacher accused of spanking students as a punishment.
Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis issued a “Denial of Warrant Request” September 27 against teacher Connie McGregor.
Michael Sved was the complainant in the case, which charged that “his daughter Jaiden and four other children were spanked by the gym teacher on multiple occasions via the ‘spanking machine’.”
In her summary, Ambrozaitis said, “The ‘spanking machine’ has been referred to as lining the children up with improper footwear for gym class and McGregor running down the line patting (or padding as the school calls it) those children on the buttocks in a teasing manner.”
Sved alleged the first incident occurred with one student in January 2011 and again in February or March with the other children, then again in April with his daughter. He said his daughter was traumatized by the events and that she required therapy.
Sved, formerly a Middle School teacher, also referenced charges against him for mistreatment of students and his perceived mistreatment by school staff.
He had been on administrative paid leave since November, 2010 following a late fall incident when students made allegations of “misconduct” against him.
Following a closed session with, and recommendation from Attorney Martha Marzero of Thrun Law Firm of East Lansing in May, the Clare Board voted unanimously to enter into an “agreement” with Sved. His employment with the district ended, as part of the agreement, on June 30.
Interviews with the students, parents and a grandparent regarding Sved’s charges against McGregor indicated the children were “put through the ‘spanking machine’ on only one occasion. The parents interviewed said they believed it happened only once and indicated that the matter should not be pursued further.
In a written statement McGregor said the incident was made in a teasing manner and “never punitive, just a reminder [to wear proper shoes].” She added, “The intent was not to hurt or threaten, but to tease…I was truly worried about the safety of the students who continually showed up with inappropriate shoes.”
McGregor received a written reprimand for the ‘spanking machine’ on January 24, with made clear that corporal punishment was not condoned by the school and that similar conduct in the future would result in administrative leave pending a thorough investigation.
Administration and school staff said they believed the reprimand resolved the matter.
The use of corporal punishment was banned in Michigan in 1989, Sved said in his written complaint. He also said he had removed three of his children including Jaidan from Clare Schools in May, 2011 because of bullying and harassment by Middle School Principal Steve Newkirk against Sved’s eighth grade son Nolan.
Ambrozaitis said she “disagreed” with Sved’s claim that the spanking incident was similar to behavior he engaged in and should result in criminal charges.
“The incidents are two very different incidents,” she wrote. “Based on video footage, it was very clear that he (Sved) hip checked a boy into his locker.” She continued, “It is alleged that McGregor patted the students on their buttocks in a teasing manner and that none of the students were harmed by this behavior.”