Cedar Rapids Weather
Disciplinary Charges Against Former Mount Vernon Principal Dismissed
By Patrick Hogan, Reporter
MOUNT VERNON, Iowa - An administrative law judge dismissed all three charges of abuse and unethical practice against former Mount Vernon Washington Elementary School Principal Terry Eisenbarth.
Eisenbarth resigned last June after it became public knowledge that he regularly used a padded hockey stick to lightly hit students with celebratory birthday "whaps."
In a ruling dated June 14, 2012, administrative law Judge Robert Wheeler dismissed the charges of physical abuse against a student, failure to protect a students' health and safety and exposing students to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement.
Whether those "whaps" were harmless fun or psychologically damaging formed the bulk of the complaint, with several parents alleging the birthday ritual was an attempt by Eisenbarth to "establish his dominance and cause the children to act submissively."
But more parents came out to support the former principal, testifying the experience was harmless and optional, enjoyed by those who opted in and witnessed by other students and staff.
Mount Vernon High School Principal Steve Brand and Middle School Principal Noreen Colbeck-Bush both testified on Eisenbarth's behalf, saying their own children participated in the birthday ritual and neither of them considered the practice abusive.
Colbeck-Bush said parents who objected did so because the birthday "whaps" appeared to resemble disciplinary "spankings," but that she easily distinguished between the two behaviors. Brand noted that he observed Eisenbarth at work as part of professional rounds of Washington Elementary and found him to be a good administrator.
Mount Vernon Superintendent Pam Ewell testified she instructed Eisenbarth to discontinue the "whappings" in February 2011. No parents had complained, but she was concerned the practice easily could be misconstrued.
After conducting a criminal investigation, Sergeant Harvey Hall of the Linn County Sheriff's Office determined no children were traumatized by the "whappings," and no crime had taken place.
An adversely-affected party has 30 days to appeal Wheeler's decision to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners.
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