New Haven teacher placed on administrative leave after alleged ‘wet willy’ incident

Wexler Grant Community School in New Haven

Wexler Grant Community School in New Haven

NEW HAVEN >> A fourth-grade teacher at Wexler-Grant School is under investigation after a student spit on his finger and swirled it around in another student’s ear — known as a “wet willy” — after the teacher allegedly invited students to spit or use the ear method to wake the girl up, according to the girl’s mother.

City spokesman Laurence Grotheer could not reveal details, but confirmed that an incident was reported related to a student in a classroom at the Wexler-Grant Community School and “the staff member in question was immediately placed on leave and the matter was referred to the state Department of Children and Families.”

“School administrators and District officials are investigating the matter in collaboration with DCF and will take appropriate action — based upon their findings — at the conclusion of that investigation,” Grotheer said.

The girl, 10, is an honor student who put her head down on the desk, as students are allowed to do, because she had finished her work early, the girl’s mother said.

The complaint against the teacher originated with the girl’s mother, Candace Cherry, who said she’s deeply troubled that a teacher would encourage assaultive behavior of any kind, and it was made all the worse by body fluids being involved.

“She was like, ‘Mommy, that’s so nasty,’” Cherry said, quoting her daughter. “I thought it was disgusting.”

Cherry said six students in the class heard the teacher first say to spit on the girl to wake her up, changing it to the wet willy directive — neither of which is OK with Cherry. A boy in the class gave Cherry’s daughter a wet willy, she said.

Cherry said the teacher admitted in a meeting that she invited students to give the girl a wet willy, but was only joking and didn’t expect anyone to do it. Cherry said the teacher denies that she told anyone to spit.

The principal at Wexler-Grant didn’t return a phone call.

Grotheer said, “The safety and well-being of all students is a priority at NHPS and the district takes all allegations related to student safety seriously as it seeks to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff alike.”

Cherry said she and her daughter met with a DCF worker Saturday who was concerned about the girl’s feelings in the aftermath of the incident.

Cherry said the wet willy indeed woke her daughter up and when she opened her eyes, classmates were laughing at her.

Cherry said her daughter texted her using someone else’s phone to tell her of the incident. Cherry told her daughter to go to the office and call her, and when she didn’t receive a call back, Cherry called the school.

A secretary in the office asked the girl what happened, then scolded her for using a phone in school, which is against the rules, Cherry said.

The teacher apologized to Cherry’s daughter, but Cherry said that doesn’t satisfy her and that she would like to see the teacher disciplined by suspension or firing.

“There has to be a consequence,” Cherry said.

The day after the incident, Cherry, the girl, the teacher, principal and another school official met. The principal called DCF, Cherry said.