Rob Mueller-Owens, the Dean of Students at Whitehorse Middle School who threw an 11-year-old sixth grader to the ground and pulled three braids from her head in a February 13 altercation, has resigned and will not return to the district, the school district announced Friday.
Mikeia Price, the girl’s mother, said she’s satisfied with the outcome.
“As long as he won’t be working with any other kids, that’s the main thing,” she said in an interview Friday, adding that district officials told her “it will be in his file. It will follow him.”
“He needs to be accountable for his mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, but there needs to be accountability,” she said. She said she hopes the resignation will “send a message that it’s not ok for adult staff to abuse kids.”
She said her daughter, who has since returned to school, is doing better.
“Still has her ups and down days. She’s still working past it,” Price said. “This has been a struggle. Madison’s got work to do.”
In a written statement, the school board said, “As a board, we are fully committed to creating welcoming and safe schools for all, where every child is valued and cared for, and we are more resolved than ever to move forward in that work. It is our responsibility to support our students of color and to create the environments that all of our students deserve. We are committed to this work in our role as board decision makers and as representatives of our community.”
The incident began on the morning of February 13 when the girl was apparently spraying air freshener in the classroom of a teacher who said she had allergies to the spray.
An 80-page police report describes an incident that escalated from a student already being in a “bad mood” and misbehaving by spraying Febreze air freshener into a classroom. Later, the student apparently threatened to spray it again. The classroom teacher, Barbara Pietz, said she was sensitive to the spray and called in Mueller-Owens and special education aide Tambercia Gue to take the air freshener. As has been previously reported, Mueller-Owens then attempted to persuade the student to leave the room with him and when she refused, told Pietz to take the rest of the class out of the room. At this point the student relented and said the class could stay and that she would go. Mueller-Owens put his hand on her shoulder and pushed her toward the door, according to witness reports, prompting her to tell him to take his hands off of her, at which point she apparently flailed her hands and he pushed her out into the hallway and into the lockers and to the ground.
The police report says the girl told police she was punched in the arm and had three braids pulled from her head, and that she had a bloody lip, though the police officer reported the lip was not bloody when he was speaking with the student.
The report contains several witness accounts, including that of Tammy Gue, a special education aide who the girl’s mother said intervened to protect the student. Gue has not been previously identified.
Gue stated, according to the police report, that she saw “physical aggression” in Mueller-Owens and that there was “no justification” for the way Mueller-Owens acted. She told police that she tried to intervene and that Mueller-Owens grabbed both her and the girl and threw them both to the ground.
Other witnesses said they saw the student swing a hand or fist at Mueller-Owens after he initiated contact with her by pushing her toward the classroom door, and that she knocked his glasses off.
Teacher Carol Rybak, who also witnessed the incident, said she thought Mueller-Owens was using “textbook” techniques of nonviolent crisis intervention, only touching the girl to restrain her and protect himself.
The police report indicates that other than Mueller-Owens, the student and her mother, witnesses — including Gue — were not interviewed until February 19, six days after the incident occurred, or later.
District Attorney Ismael Ozanne declined to press charges.
“To be clear, the police department never established probable cause to make an arrest. However, in this case I asked to review their decision and decide for myself whether my office should file criminal charges,” he said in a press conference. “It is my job to review all the information and render an opinion based on how the law defines a crime. I’ve done that and in this case I do not believe a crime was committed.”