Friday, February 13, 2009

MN: Clogged toilet makes mess for Eagan principal

A 6-year-old student who used paper towels, not toilet paper, was forced to clear bowl by hand, his family says.
By SARAH LEMAGIE, Star Tribune
Last update: February 6, 2009 - 11:36 AM

Complaints from the parents of a kindergarten student that their son was forced to unclog a toilet with his bare hands resulted in proposed disciplinary action against an Eagan elementary school principal Thursday.

Doug Steele, principal of Rahn Elementary, has been on paid leave since mid-December while the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district has investigated the complaint. On Thursday night, the school board passed a resolution proposing disciplinary action against Steele.

Because of data practices law and union rules, district officials said they would not comment on the case or the nature of Steele's punishment until he exhausts all appeals.

According to Elijah and Shannon Hannah, they filed the complaint in December after their 6-year-old son told them that Steele made him clean out the contents of a toilet bowl that the boy had accidentally clogged on Dec. 12. The boy, whom the Star Tribune is not naming because of his age, told them that he used a bathroom in his classroom and wiped himself with paper towels, which then clogged the toilet.

The Hannahs said that when the boy's teacher found out, she called the principal, who made the boy reach into the toilet bowl, remove the material and put it in the trash.

Elijah Hannah said that when he learned of the incident he was furious. "With a 6-year-old boy, you've got a custodian to do that," he said. The boy's parents said he hadn't had any previous bathroom problems at school.

Elijah Hannah said that he called Steele on the Friday night he learned of the incident and that the principal returned his call over the weekend. He said that Steele was apologetic when the two men met at the school on Monday and that the principal told him he hadn't realized that the boy had used the toilet.

Steele declined to respond to the Hannahs' account Thursday, adding, "They're a very nice family."

Steele also would not say what disciplinary action the district approved. Before the board met he said that he had not decided whether to appeal.

Hannah said that if the district does not fire the principal, the family will consider legal options.
The Hannahs' son remains in the same class at Rahn.

The family has talked five or six times to Sue Grissom, the district's executive director of human resources, Elijah Hannah said. Grissom, who came to the family's Eagan home to interview them, is the only district official that the Hannahs know of who has talked to the boy about the incident, Elijah Hannah said.

An interim principal, Elaine Mehdizadeh, replaced Steele, who came to Rahn Elementary in 2003. He was hired by the school district in 1996 as principal of William Byrne Elementary School in Burnsville.

Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016

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