Principal Accused of Insulting Special Needs Students | NBC 10 Philadelphia

Principal Accused of Insulting Special Needs Students

A local high school principal is at the center of controversy after he allegedly insulted special needs students in text messages and emails.



    (Published Wednesday, July 18, 2012)

    A local high school principal is at the center of controversy after he allegedly insulted special needs students in text messages and emails.

    Dr. David Madden, a principal at the Oxford Area High School, is accused of making derogatory comments about the special needs students in his district. In one exchange, Madden allegedly referred to a student with bipolar disorder as a “psychopath.”

    Madden allegedly sent the texts during a meeting with a special needs student and his mother. Lisa Lightner of the Arc of Chester County, tells the Philadelphia Inquirer she was sitting next to Madden, glanced at his phone and read an insulting text that included an obscenity and referred to the student as a “manipulator.”

    The Inquirer reports Lightner reported the text message to her supervisor at the Arc, which provides services to disabled people. After requesting records about the student, they claim they uncovered other insulting comments Madden made towards him and other special needs students in general.

    The Inquirer reports that last February, Arc filed four grievances with the Pennsylvania Department of Education against Madden, a school nurse and a gym teacher, claiming all three insulted the student through email. Madden allegedly called the student “the biggest accident waiting to happen” and a “psychopath who has more rights than the kids he stalks or the teachers/administrators that have to deal with him.”

    Madden was suspended in March. He was reinstated as principal however by a 6-3 school board vote on July 1. The decision comes with a catch however; he is now stripped of his special education duties and won’t be allowed to interact with those students.

    Many people in the community were outraged by the reinstatement. School board member Steve Gaspar told the Inquirer Madden was saved by the “good ol’ boys’ network that exists in the community.”

    Parents, special needs advocates and taxpayers say they want transparency and that all children deserve an education with dignity.

    “If you want us to give you the benefit of the doubt as to why you kept him as principal you need to tell us your reasoning behind that because right now we don’t see any redeeming qualities,” said Lightner.

    The Inquirer reports Madden’s emails reflected his frustrations with not being able to remove the special needs student from the building even though he viewed him as dangerous.

    Connie Mohn, the Arc’s director of advocacy, told the Inquirer the boy who Madden insulted is bipolar with poor social skills but is also intellectually gifted. The Inquirer reports he had a dispute with a former girlfriend when he was a Sophomore in January of 2010, was charged with harassment and ordered to perform community service.

    In November, during his senior year, the teen went to his new girlfriend’s class to talk to her and wouldn’t leave the hallway when asked by a teacher, according to the Inquirer. The Inquirer reports the teacher called the principal who called police. The teen was then charged with making terroristic threats and disorderly conduct and given three months of probation, fines and told to attend anger management classes, according to the Inquirer.

    While Madden claimed the student threatened to kill her, the student denied the allegation, according to Mohn.

    One man, who did not want to be identified, told NBC10 he supported Madden’s reinstatement.

    “All kids are special needs,” said the man. “I have a daughter the same age as the kid that that boy attacked.”

    NBC10 attempted to speak to Madden after he attended a board meeting centered on his alleged comments.

    “I’m not allowed to comment and I have no comment,” said Madden.

    The board has advised that Dr. Madden undergo a psychiatric evaluation along with drug testing before he can return to his position in the fall.

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