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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 22, 2011

Police say
Teacher bites student

VOORHEESVILLE — A teacher who bit a fifth-grade student in the midst of a classroom commotion is on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the state’s commissioner of education.

Michael Guerette, 50, who has taught in Voorheesville’s elementary school for 18 years, reported the Dec. 13 incident to the building principal at the end of the school day, according to district Superintendent Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder.

“I really stepped over the line today, I feel really bad.  I bit a kid,” he told principal Thomas Reardon, who was leaving to meet Snyder in Rochester for a conference, Snyder said.

The district called the child’s parents, who were not upset, and took Guerette out of the classroom, Snyder said.  The district’s attorney interviewed the child, whose arm was bruised, on Thursday and then interviewed Guerette on Friday, she said.

“The incident allegedly occurred… during classroom instructional time during which Guerette allowed a male fifth grade student to engage in arm wrestling with him,” according to a release from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.  “During the wrestling, other students including the victim became excited and were pulling and pushing on the child’s arm who was wrestling Guerette trying to cause the student to win the arm wrestling match. 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. Guerette opened his mouth and bit the female student in the forearm leaving what the student said were teeth marks. The bite mark eventually turned to bruising on the child’s arm which was still visible 48 hours later when examined by school officials.”

Snyder is bound by the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education to report “Any information indicating that an individual holding a teaching certificate has been convicted of a crime, or has committed an act which raises a reasonable question as to the individual's moral character.”  She notified the state’s education department and the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident fit the count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, said Investigator Mark DeFrancesco, so, in consultation with the district attorney’s office, the sheriff’s office charged him.

“The sheriff’s investigation has not revealed any misconduct of a sexual nature,” the release says.  “It does appear there may [be] other incidents of inappropriate behavior and/or unprofessional comments made by Guerette which are being looked into by the Sheriff’s Office.”  So far, DeFrancesco said, it seems like that matter will be handled by the school district and won’t warrant further charges.

A substitute teacher has been in the fifth-grade classroom for the last week and the district plans to interview long-term substitutes this week, Snyder said.  Guerette will remain on paid leave, pending the outcome of the state education department’s investigation, Snyder said.  She did not know how long that might take.

— By Saranac Hale Spencer

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