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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, April 19, 2012
Case to be dismissed for Voorheesville teacher accused of biting student
By Tyler Murphy
VOORHEESVILLE A Voorheesville Elementary School teacher arrested in December for biting one of his fifth-grade students is having his case dismissed after the alleged victims’ parents told officials they wanted the charges dropped, reported his attorney, James Knox.
However, the suspended fifth-grade teacher will have to submit a letter of apology to the victim’s family, said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple.
Michael Guerette, 50, who has taught in Voorheesville Elementary School for 18 years, was arrested by the sheriff’s office after he reported the incident to school administrators on Dec. 13. Guerette was charged with fifth-degree endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
Guerette had been arm wrestling with one of his fifth-grade students when the boy’s classmates began participating by pulling on his arm to help the student win, reported the sheriff’s office. “During this ruckus, the victim reached her arm across the desk in front of Guerette pulling on the hand of the student who was wrestling the teacher,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a release. “Guerette opened his mouth and bit the female student in the forearm leaving what the student said were teeth marks.”
Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said in December the girl’s parents were not upset about the incident when district administrators first contacted them.
Appearing before Voorheesville Village Justice Kenneth Connolly on April 16, Knox said, the “parents asked charges be dropped that night, immediately, but the district attorney asked they be adjourned in contemplation of dismissal.” That means if Guerette is not arrested in the next six months, the charges will be dropped and the records will be sealed.
Knox said, that his client, the girl’s parents, and officials sat down a few weeks earlier to discuss the matter face-to-face and Monday’s ruling was a direct result of those talks.
Knox explained, a contemplation of dismissal “was absolutely not an admission of guilt.”
“So long as he’s not arrested in the next 6 months, the case, automatically, is dismissed,” said Knox, “the case is being dropped.”
Apple said, “The charges were not thrown out,” explaining a contemplation of dismissal was not an “uncommon result,” in lower level, misdemeanor offenses. “He’s not pleading guilty or innocent,” said the sheriff.
“This is definitely a bizarre case, obviously something occurred and a criminal complaint was brought to our attention and we had enough probable cause for an arrest,” said Apple. The sheriff also said the deal to adjourn and dismiss the charges would not have been accepted by officials without the support of the victim’s family.
When asked if the case’s results would affect Guerette position with the school, Apple responded, “He’s not convicted of anything.”
Knox said the case had a fair result and Guerette was hopeful he’d be returning to the classroom. He added that it has been very stressful for Guerette to be away from teaching but said his client has received support from colleagues, parents, and the public.
“It’s been very uplifting for him to learn how many people in the community actually supported him, though letters, the phone, or in person,” said Knox.
Superintendent Snyder said the final decision to allow Guerette to return to his position, or any other action, was up to the school board. Snyder said she would first offer a recommendation to members before the board takes action, but couldn’t say what that might be.
“We haven’t been informed by anybody but members of the press,” said Snyder Wednesday, in reference to the settlement. She said the school had not received official confirmation of the court’s ruling and, pending more information; she declined to comment on what the district would do next.
She said Guerette would remain on paid administrative leave until further notice. “There will probably be a meeting between our attorneys and his attorneys and we’ll move forward from there,” she said.
Snyder said the issue could be discussed at the school’s next regular board of education meeting scheduled for May 7.
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