LaFountain fired: Mount Markham Central School District issues statement

By WKTV News

MOUNT MARKHAM, N.Y. (WKTV) - The school board in Mount Markham has fired former principal Jim LaFountain after a long investigation into an incident that allegedly happened back in February of 2012. Tuesday night, a hearing officer from the State Department of Education recommended the termination of the tenured employee with the district. State police had originally said LaFountain grabbed the collar of a developmentally disabled child.

"First and foremost I'd like to bring it out that I take full responsibility for grabbing a student and taking him out of what I deemed an unsafe situation he was engaged, physically engaged with a veteran staff member and I was asked to remove him to her office," said Jim LaFountain.

School officials say, it wasn't just that incident that lead to the firing of LaFountain. A statement from the Board of Educating of the Mount Markham Central School District says, "The charges were based upon the use of inappropriate physical force for instances with two different students, the first of which had resulted in a strong warning from the Superintendent to Mr. LaFountain, and the second of which resulted in a report to the New York State Police."

LaFountain responded to the claim of this being the second incident and he says that simply isn't true. LaFountain says the first incident was when a student punched LaFountain in the hand and LaFountain's knuckle became dislocated and he was written up for the incident.

LaFountain was orginally charged with endangering the welfare of a child but after an investigation, that charge was dropped. Tuesday night's decision by the Mount Markham Board of Education came as a shock.

"What's especially troubling to me is that State Police and District Attorney Jeff Carpenter did a thorough investigation, that's their profession they did a very thorough investigation and they dropped the case because they felt there was not enough evidence to prosecute me or do anything like that," said LaFountain. "What I have somewhat of a problem with is that the State Education Department sent one man down to determine my fate and interview some witnesses that weren't even at the scene and he deemed that I needed to be terminated. I'm not so sure that it's quite as credible as the District Attorney and State Police who do it professionally."

LaFountain says he plans to file an appeal by next Thursday and hopes to hear from a State Supreme Court Judge sometime in July.

We've also filed a Freedom of Information request with the school district to learn more about Education 3020-A, which mandates that the school board implement the hearing officer's determination.
That determination, was to fire LaFountain.

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