Santa Rosa teacher charged with striking special education student

  • Michael Delgado, 16, right, smiles after finishing his homework, Wednesday Sept. 26, 2012 with the help of his mother Jeannie and his father Manuel at their home in Santa Rosa. Delgado, a special education student at Santa Rosa High School and his parents allege that Michael was hit about the head several times by his instructor at the school. Delgado was moved to another class, but the teacher in questions is still on campus. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

An honored Santa Rosa High School teacher has been removed from the classroom, days after being charged over accusations he struck a special education student in the head on multiple occasions last year.

Willie Swindle, 67, was removed from his classroom and placed on paid administrative leave March 5 after being charged Feb. 28, said Mark Klick, assistant superintendent of human resources for Santa Rosa City Schools.

"It is not one of the ed code violations that requires us to do so," Klick said when asked why Swindle was not removed from the classroom immediately. "It is what the district believes is in the best interest of all."

A decision on whether Swindle will return is "pending the outcome of the situation," Klick said.

Swindle faces three counts of misdemeanor child endangerment. His first court date is Thursday.

Swindle is accused of striking Michael Delgado, a student in his special education classroom who was 15 at the time, in three incidents outlined in court documents.

The district has previously acknowledged that Swindle pinched or pulled Delgado's ear. Allegations the teacher took Delgado into the hall and clapped him on the head were unsubstantiated, according to the district investigation. Interviews conducted cited witnesses who said Swindle would "clap Michael on both cheeks with his open palm" while in the classroom.

Delgado is developmentally delayed and has a "very low" IQ, according to school records.

Court documents indicate the alleged incidents occurred between Nov. 1, 2011, and March 1, 2012.

Reached by phone while driving Friday, Swindle declined to comment.

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