Substitute banned from Philly schools after allegedly hitting first graders

The Philadelphia School District Building, in Philadelphia, December 3, 2007.

A Philadelphia substitute teacher has been banned from teaching in the city’s public school system after allegedly hitting multiple first graders at Sullivan Elementary in Wissinoming.

The incident happened April 6, according to Kailyn Wildonger, 6, one of the pupils, and her father, Alan. School District officials say they have investigated the matter and the substitute is no longer permitted to teach in their schools.

Kailyn Wildonger, 6, with her father, Alan.

Kailyn was allegedly one of several students struck by a substitute teacher at Sullivan Elementary in Wissinoming. In Philadelphia, substitute teachers are employees of Kelly Services, a staffing company, and must undergo screenings, background checks, and training, officials said.

Jane Stehney, a spokeswoman for Kelly, said the organization is investigating the incident but cannot discuss details because it is a personnel matter.

“Kelly Educational Staffing is concerned when a report of inappropriate behavior is received, and we take these matters very seriously,” Stehney said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the district said “the substitute teacher in question will never work in our schools again.”

“Our students’ safety is our top priority,” said Megan Lello, the spokeswoman. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated in any of our schools or by anyone who works in our schools, whether they are a regular employee or substitute teacher.”

The trouble happened before lunch, Kailyn said, on a day when her regular teacher was sick. The substitute, whose name was not provided by the district, grew angry and hit a boy who was talking when it wasn’t his turn, Kailyn told the Inquirer and Daily News.

That’s when she spoke up, because “teachers aren’t supposed to hit kids,” said Kailyn.

“She was slapping a boy, so I said, ‘You’re not his mom or dad, so stop hitting him,'” she said. “Then she walked over to me, and she started hitting me.”

The substitute twisted her wrist, Kailyn said, and slapped her. The teacher allegedly struck other kids, too — Kailyn says six children were hit altogether.

Kailyn thought quickly. There was a tissue box by the door, she said, so she pretended she needed a tissue. Then, she took off, sprinting to the school’s main office.

“I ran in there crying,” Kailyn said. “I said, ‘We have a substitute teacher, and she keeps on hitting us.'”

Alan Wildonger, Kailyn’s father, said he got a call from his cousin, who works at the school: Come now, she said, the principal is trying to reach you.

He said he raced to the school, where the principal told him “the substitute teacher assaulted your daughter and there are a few others who were involved.”

The principal told him that initially, the assistant principal tried to remove the substitute. Then, the principal had to intervene.

Kailyn was shaken, but at first seemed OK. She told her dad she wanted to go home. But by Saturday, Kailyn was still complaining of wrist pain, so Wildonger took her to the hospital, where the staff photographed her injuries — a few marks — and X-rays showed no broken bones. Then, Wildonger went to the police station and filed a report.

Police confirmed that a report was filed. Asked if police were investigating, a department spokesman said Wildonger was advised on the process of filing a private criminal complaint. Wildonger said he also contacted an attorney and is contemplating legal action.

Staff writer Chris Palmer contributed to this article.