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GRPS teacher under investigation for allegedly assaulting an 8-year-old student

Kent Hills Elementary in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
Kent Hills Elementary in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Public Schools is investigating a teacher who allegedly assaulted an eight-year-old student.

This is the second time Robert Spaeth has been accused of physically hurting a student.

Almost a year ago exactly, Spaeth was accused of choking a fourth-grade student at Kent Hills Elementary School. Now he’s accused of grabbing a second-grade student by the back of the neck.

Passionelle McBride, the mom of the student who was allegedly assaulted last week, doesn’t understand how Spaeth is still working at the school.

“We send our kids to school to learn and to be protected by the teacher while we’re not there, but obviously, that’s not happening. I feel like he should not be working with children alone and that he should lose his job,” McBride said.

A group of parents went to the school Monday morning to talk to Spaeth and the school’s principal, but the school initiated a security lockdown.

John Helmholdt, a GRPS spokesman, says the parents were aggressive and disruptive, which caused the security lockdown.

Helmholdt went as far as to say the group of parents used inappropriate language around school children and faculty, but McBride says that isn’t true.

“We weren’t being aggressive like they say we were. We just went up the school to get answers because this [type of incident] is unacceptable,” she said.

Helmholdt says the district was informed of the incident Sunday morning and Helmholdt says an investigation was launched immediately. Last year’s investigation didn’t conclude with Spaeth being fired.

“The conclusion of investigation was that the incident did not amount to an assault. However, in accordance with our board policy and employee handbook, disciplinary action was taken,” he said.

Helmholdt says Spaeth is currently on paid administrative leave. Spaeth could not be reached for comment.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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