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Community reacts to Mt. Markham Principal's administrative leave

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

WEST WINFIELD, N.Y. (WKTV) - Family, friends and co-workers came to Mt. Markham's Board of Education meeting Tuesday night in support of Elementary School Principal James LaFountain, who is now on paid administrative leave following an incident involving an elementary student.

New York State Police charged LaFountain on February 8 after a parent called them claiming LaFountain used excessive force on his third grade son.

LaFountain supporters said Tuesday night that all the principal did was usher the student back to where he needed to go by grabbing his coat - a discipline tactic they feel the principal shouldn't lose his job over.

"Grabbing a child by the collar of a coat is really not harming the child," says former teacher Joseph Bottini. "If that's excessive force, I'd like someone to tell me what else you can do."

As a retired teacher, Bottini came to Tuesday night's meeting to support LaFountain and all teachers, and to speak to the Mt. Markham School Board about authority being absent in schools.

"When the principal of a school can't direct a child to follow the directions of a teacher, what's left? You have chaos," says Bottini.

Bottini feels that teaching students proper behavior is just as important of a lesson as Social Studies or English.

"Imagine the principal of the school not having the authority to direct a little ten year old boy who's misbehaving," says Bottini. "We all misbehave. He's not a bad kid. He just misbehaved at that moment. Someone should have the authority to correct that behavior.

LaFountain has been advised not to comment on the case while it's still under investigation.

His court date has been rescheduled to February 22.

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