Students Report Fear over MMS Teacher’s Classroom Behavior

By far the most complaints RCNN has ever received about a teacher are concerns from students and parents about Marietta Middle School teacher Dion Prunty. This fall Prunty’s use of the other ”n-word” and her capacity for humiliating students has left families of different faiths uncomfortable and fearful.

Allegations against Prunty range from calling her students “nazis”, embarrassing them over slight infringements, denying them lunch and bathroom breaks, putting her hands on them and refusing to properly pronounce students’ names. RCNN has interviewed dozens of parents and students – all who fear retaliation. For this reason, their identities are being protected.

“Today I found out that a sixth grade teacher at Marietta Middle School has been referring to herself as ‘Hitler’ and calling her students ‘Nazi’. To top it off, this year she had a student read a short story called ‘The Good Nazi’ in front of the class,” said one parent. “She tried to justify her use of the term by say it is ‘just a noun’. This teacher teaches science and language arts. We had a bunch of issues with this teacher but this is over the line in my book.”

Many sources tell the same story.

“My daughter was in Mrs Prunty’s class at MMS when she referred to herself as Hitler and said she expected her students to all be her Nazis and asked them if they would be,” said another parent. “It’s not the first sadistic thing Prunty had done.”

In response to RCNN’s inquiries, Prunty claims she used the word as a learning tool:

“I will tell you exactly what I said and why. One of my standards for Language Arts is teaching students that there are often many definitions for words. I have done this for many years, trying to get the students to realize that words can mean different things than they might already know.

I was telling the students about my new set of computers. I had computers until this year that were very old while others had new ones. The reason I was able to keep them is that I really am tough on the students about how they are treating the computers. Many students do not respect others peoples things, and I was trying to tell them how much I do respect the computers in my room. My computer cart was the only one that kept on running. In fact, they are now being used in the elementary schools because they are still usable.

What I did was tell the students that I am a computer nazi. I put the definition of nazi up and discussed the secondary meaning of the word, which is “a person who is fanatically dedicated to or seeks to regulate a specified activity, practice, etc” (Dictionary.com). This was brought up last year by a student when we were discussing Nazi takeover during the reading of Number the Stars, a novel we are supposed to read in the 6th grade. That student said I was sort of a computer nazi. We looked up the word as a class and decided that although the word is often used negatively, that definition worked in that situation. I told the kids about this happening last year and used the whole idea to teach a standard that I am required to teach. I did not at any time call myself Hitler, nor call any kids nazi. The students that help me with the computers know that I expect them to watch them as I would if I am doing it. They are students that volunteered to help me.”

Prunty went on to explain that these students are honor students and so she expects a great deal from them. She also says her use of the word has ceased. However, students tell quite a different tale about the use of the word “nazi” in her classroom.

“Not once has she explained the meaning of a nazi or talked about World War II,” one student said. “She asked in the beginning of the year who would like to be her ‘computer nazi’ because she had new computers and she wanted someone to watch over everyone as they got their computer to make sure they were very careful and did everything correctly. I did not think she should have used the term ‘nazi’ because it could have easily offended someone.”

Many parents and students objected to Prunty’s explanation.

“My daughter had told me this was not correct. (Prunty) is telling lies,” explained one mom. “She has also informed them after Christmas things will be much worse for them. She gets meaner after Christmas – her words according to my (student) and friends. They also told me she never made it clear what the meaning of nazi was in any classes except the one she made a student read it in front of – this is a big issue. ”

Students and their parents tell of humiliations suffered because of Prunty’s treatment of them.

“One day (a girl) needed to go to the bathroom to change her pad,” explained the girl’s relative. “She asked to go three times. Each time Prunty told her no. Also, some kids decided to act up so Prunty held them an extra 15 minutes before sending them to lunch. Since she denied (a girl) the bathroom, by the time she used the bathroom and went to the lunch room, the cafeteria was closed. She never had a chance to eat.”

When the sixth grade bathroom was closed recently, students were forbidden to go use any other bathrooms.

“During this break most kids go to the bathroom but last week on my way to the bathroom a couple of my friends were coming back and they seemed upset,” one student said. “I asked them what was wrong and they said the girls’ bathroom was closed. I asked them why we couldn’t go to another bathroom. They went to Mrs. Bucina to ask and she said they could but when Mrs. Bucina came out with my friends from the classroom Ms. Prunty said that we couldn’t use any other bathrooms and we would just have to hold it. This was our last period so we wouldn’t be able to go to the bathroom until we got to our homes or where ever we went to after school. For me I had to go 45 minutes at school and then another 40 minutes on the bus.”

Several students expressed their discomfort with asking Prunty about assignments or anything out of fear “she will yell and make a big scene”.

“For example, one day I had to use the bathroom in her science class and a couple of people had already asked to go to the bathroom,” one girl explained. “I mustered up the courage to ask her if I could use the bathroom (I was afraid to ask Ms. Prunty anything before this) and when I did she started yelling at me and the whole class about how we should use the bathroom in between classes and why we always use the bathroom in her class. It is very difficult for anyone to use the bathroom in between classes because my classes are on the other side of the bathrooms and we only have three minutes in between classes. I no longer use the bathroom in Ms. Prunty’s classes.”

Students are being denied lunch breaks, as well.

“Ms. Prunty held the children in the room for someone talking out of turn during lunch and several kids did not get to eat lunch,” one mother said. “This was due to the late arrival and the cafeteria already being closed so no hot lunches were available.”

However, Prunty refutes this claim.

“As far as keeping students in at lunch, that I have never done,” Prunty said. “I have used the lunch period to give makeup work or to talk to them, but it is never more than a few minutes. I always allow them lunch time. It is my lunch too. There are several teachers that do require the kids to come to their room during lunch, I have never done that unless the students themselves have asked to do it. In fact, for the past several years, as it got cooler, students would ask to stay in at lunch with me as I stay in my classroom to eat my lunch. This is a good way to have a good relationship with students and learn about them. I do not however, require this.”

But, that’s not where the accusations against Prunty end.

“One day they had the tablets out in class to go over a study guide. When Prunty asked a student to answer a question, the student said the tablet wasn’t working. She called the student a liar and told him to eat lunch with her. The same thing happened with the next three students. She just decided they must all be lying instead of checking the tablets,” said a parent.

“(A boy) was confused about what computer he was supposed to get out of a cabinet. And she got frustrated with him and grabbed him with both hands, one on each cheek and forcibly moved his head in the direction of the computer, yelled at him just inches away, and then forcibly moved his head back,” another parent explained. “Also, she humiliated him in the hallway for crying after being stung by a wasp.”

In yet another instance of classroom injustice, Prunty insisted on mispronouncing the name of a troubled student. She told him his “parents were stupid and didn’t know how to pronounce his name.”

Students at Marietta Middle School are expected to participate in an anti-bullying campaign based on building each other up rather than tearing each other down. It’s called Rachel’s Challenge. Parents and students are questioning its effectiveness under the circumstances.

“What’s the point of having the program Rachael’s challenge when the teachers are doing what they are training kids not to do?” asked a parent.

Another parent described it this way:
“What gets me is when we live in a world where we teach our children to report bulling to an authority figure where do they turn when the authority figure is the bully?”

Though many complaints have been lodged through official channels, parents believe their concerns are not being taken seriously. Prunty is a former Golden Apple award winning teacher.

Contact information for the Marietta City Schools Board of Education members can be found at:
http://www.mariettacityschools.k12.oh.us/board.aspx

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About Callie Lyons

RCNN Publisher and Editor Callie Lyons is an independent journalist and author living in the Mid Ohio Valley. Her first book, Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers of C8, is available at Amazon.com and in hundreds of libraries all over the world. Known as a "warrior for public health", Lyons' environmental investigations have been featured in documentaries, including Good Neighbors - Bad Blood and Toxic Soup, on Swedish National Television and in numbers of television, radio and print media interviews. Her work has appeared on Nova's Whiz Kids and in Mother Jones magazine. More recently, a national audience has come to know her award-winning investigative work through the Environmental Working Group and interviews with leading publications like the Huffington Post and The Intercept. Lyons' work was featured in the 2017 documentary Parched:Toxic Waters by National Geographic. According to Dr. Arlene Blum of the Green Science Policy Institute at UC Berkeley, Lyons' book provided the inspiration for the Madrid Statement, which documents the scientific consensus regarding the persistence and potential for harm of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances like PFOA and lays out a roadmap to gather needed information and prevent further harm. In 2006, Lyons received the Associated Press of Ohio Award for Best Business Writer. In 2007, Ohio Citizen Action presented Lyons with the Uncovering the Truth Award for her environmental journalism. In 2015, the Marietta 9-12 Project awarded Lyons the Freedom Pin for her commitment to democracy and free press.
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