By Ed Runyan
A 63-year-old McDonald man pleaded not guilty Friday to a misdemeanor assault charge filed against him after he purportedly spanked two students while serving as a substitute gym teacher.
John E. Jerome of Dakota Avenue was released on a personal recognizance bond, meaning he didn’t have to pay anything. If convicted, he could get six months in jail.
Warren police said they were called after Jerome spanked an 8-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl Tuesday afternoon at the Warren schools’ Willard K-8 building.
Lt. Jeff Cole of the Warren Police Department said Jerome spanked the boy multiple times. No information was available on the girl.
School officials said Jerome has been certified to work as a substitute teacher since the 2010-11 school year, but it was unclear how often he had worked in the district. He will not work as a substitute teacher in Warren schools in the future, and the school district filed a notice Thursday with the Trumbull County Educational Service Center recommending that he not work as a substitute teacher elsewhere in the county, school officials said.
Nick Graham, assistant Warren law director, said he filed the charge because spanking in schools is “pretty much illegal. You can’t spank a child. It was caught on tape. There was a little bruising.”
A Warren police report says the boy suffered an “apparent minor injury,” and the girl was injured but the degree of injury was “unknown.”
Graham said school video shows that some children in the gym class had gotten “out of control, and he didn’t handle them properly.”
The school district corporal-punishment policy says spanking or hitting by a school-district employee is not permitted.
“If any employee threatens to inflict, inflicts or causes to inflict unnecessary, unreasonable, irrational, or inappropriate force upon a student/he may be subject to discipline by the board and possible charges of child abuse as well,” the policy says.
Force can be used “to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to others, to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects upon or within control of the student, in self-defense or for the protection of persons or property,” it says.
An alternative to corporal punishment is removing a student from class or the school through suspension or expulsion procedures, the policy says.
Ohio law outlawed the use of corporal punishment in Ohio public schools in 2009.