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Child’s family says Riverdale teacher undercharged

By MAX FILBY
STAFF WRITER

Disappointed, traumatized, disgusted.

They’re the feelings Cleveland attorney Dan Margolis said the Nelson family had when hearing about the charge filed against Barb Williams, a Riverdale kindergarten teacher caught on camera shoving her student against a wall and picking him up by his shirt and face last month.

Williams was charged on Friday in Findlay Municipal Court with child endangerment, a first degree misdemeanor, in connection with the incident which involved the Nelsons’ 6-year-old son, Ian.

“She was way undercharged,” Margolis said. “We would like to see a charge that fits the crime.”

Margolis said he and the family wanted Williams charged with felonious child endangerment, assault, abduction and aggravated menacing.

“It’s in the hands of the prosecutor now,” Margolis said.

The decision to charge Williams with a first-degree misdemeanor of child endangerment came after an extensive review of the evidence, Alan Hackenberg, assistant city law director, said. Hackenberg said he does not have the ability to file felony charges.

“I want people to be aware that this is the most serious charge that can be brought,” Hackenberg said.

Hackenberg said his office decided not to pursue further charges of assault or aggravated menacing because the evidence available made the child endangerment charge seem “more appropriate.”

In the coming months, Hackenberg said he expects a lot more details to arise for discussion on the case.

“This is really just a starting point,” he said.

Margolis said the only way for the Nelson family to get closure on the incident is for them to go to court and see the case through to conviction or a guilty plea.

“It’s time to try to start the healing process for the family,” Margolis said.

On Monday, Williams’ attorney, Jay Feldstein in Toledo, said he and his client are aware the charge has been filed but she had not formally been served with it yet.

“We will respond at a time and place where it is appropriate, which is in the courtroom,” Feldstein said.

Riverdale Superintendent Eric Hoffman declined to comment Monday on the charge, saying the district was paying attention to the ongoing situation. School officials first noticed the incident on the district’s security camera footage on May 7.

There is a maximum jail sentence of 180 days and a maximum fine of $1,000 for a first-degree misdemeanor, according to state law.

The Ohio Department of Education refers to an act of child endangerment as an “unemployable offense.”

Ohio districts are forbidden from employing people who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to child endangerment, according to Ohio Revised Code.

The state department is not allowed to confirm or deny whether it is looking into the incident involving Williams, said John Charlton, associate director for media relations for the department.

“Nothing is made public unless the accused requests a hearing,” Charlton said.

Typically, the state spends about 30 days investigating a case referred to them by law enforcement, parents, teachers or even media outlets.

Action taken can result in anything from a suspension of a teaching license to permanent revocation, Charlton said. Sometimes the accused even voluntarily gives up his or her license, he said.

“Sometimes they might just want it to go away,” Charlton said. “That cuts down on the process and the investigation ends.”

Filby: 419-427-8422
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