FREMONT -- A longtime Fremont elementary schoolteacher accused of slapping a student who got a math problem wrong was set to return to the classroom Friday but will remain on leave after police reopened an investigation into the matter, officials said.
The planned return of the third-grade teacher drew outrage and protests by students and parents before class at Patterson Elementary School on Friday. Parents said the 58-year-old teacher has no place in the classroom.
"I think there's no way he should be able to come back," said Danny Rivera, father of 9-year-old Julian, the alleged victim.
The Rivera family has close ties to the school: the boy's grandmother and father attended Patterson Elementary. Standing outside the campus Friday, Julian told reporters the teacher confronted him after he incorrectly answered a math problem. The third-grader grabbed his own mouth to demonstrate how the teacher allegedly grabbed him.
"I said, 'can you help me figure it out?' He dropped my test on my desk and grabbed my face like this and slapped me two times in the face," Julian said. "I was just scared that he was gonna hit me again or do something bad. He walked away. I was crying; three or four other kids came up to me and said, 'Are you OK?' He just walked away and didn't do anything."
Dionne Choyce, a lawyer for the Rivera family, has said the teacher reacted physically after believing the boy answered a decimal question wrong on purpose in an attempt to mock him. The lawyer and the family has said the teacher admitted to "patting" the boy on the face. All parties met with district officials on Thursday morning to discuss the incident, a school district official said.
Attempts to reach the teacher were not successful Friday and Fremont teacher union leaders did not return a call for comment.
The male teacher has taught at Patterson Elementary since 1997, and has no prior incidents with students, said Robert Lee, assistant superintendent of human resources. This newspaper is not identifying the teacher because he has not been arrested or charged. District officials placed the teacher on paid administrative leave on April 29 after a police report was filed. He remains on leave while police investigate. Julian, meanwhile, has been moved to another teacher's class, Choyce said.
Last week, the family and Choyce told police they would seek no further action, Fremont police spokeswoman Geneva Bosques said. After media attention on Thursday, however, police contacted the family and their attorney and ï»¿said they wanted to pursue the matter, according to Bosques.
"I think (the district) made a rush to judgment without speaking with some of the witnesses," Choyce said. "Hopefully we'll have a better look into what took place in that classroom. I think when all the facts come out, they'll find he was wrong for putting his hands on a kid."
David DeBolt covers breaking news. Contact him at 510-262-2728. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.