Police, school investigate Santa Rosa High School abuse allegation

  • 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 with a different instructor, but the teacher in questions is still on campus. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Santa Rosa police are investigating allegations that an award-winning Santa Rosa High School teacher struck a special education student on the head on multiple occasions last spring.

The investigation marks the second time police have delved into allegations made by Michael Delgado and his parents, Jeannie and Manuel, that teacher Willie Swindle struck Michael Delgado during the the school day.

Santa Rosa City Schools has hired an attorney and a private investigator to re-examine the original allegations and how school and district employees handled the case.

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

Swindle, 67, remains in the classroom, and the district won't say what, if any, punishment the teacher received.

"Why is he still teaching? That is our main thing: Why is he still there?" Manuel Delgado said.

"I would like to see the teacher not teaching anymore, not shuffled off anywhere. That is our concern," he said. "And the school district owns up, 'OK, we made a mistake.' Fire the teacher and move on. I don't think that is asking for much."

District policy defines child abuse as, among other things, "a physical injury which is inflicted (other than accidentally) on a child by another person," "willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment of a child" and "willfully inflicting unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering or failure to safeguard a child from these injuries," among others.

"I can tell you that the district has taken action in the matter, and they believe they have taken action that will safeguard the situation," said Margaret Merchat, an attorney with School and College Legal Services of California hired by the district to handle the case.

Police officers assigned to the Mendocino Avenue campus under the school resource officer program initially examined allegations that Swindle struck Michael Delgado during the spring semester.

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