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Kelly Altenburg's Lawyer: My Client Wasn't There During Bullying

An attorney for the embattled special education teacher says she wasn't present for the remarks captured on Stuart Chaifetz's secret audio recording.

Special education teacher Kelly Altenburg was not present in her classroom when the worst of the remarks were allegedly made to 10-year-old Akian Chaifetz in her classroom at the Horace Mann School in Cherry Hill, according to her attorney, Matthew Wieliczko.

At a press conference Friday, Wieliczko told media Altenburg was in a meeting at the time, and that she "does not condone the words and the conduct" of the people whose voices were captured on the recording.

"This language was not used by her or in her presence, or at her direction," he said.

Wieliczko went on to say that Altenburg "[n]either said [those words n]or was in the presence of others" heard on the audio footage captured by Stuart Chaifetz, Akian's father, who slipped a digital recorder into his son's pocket after he was unable to reconcile reports of the boy acting out in class with his docile behavior elsewhere.

The case has caused a national stir since Stuart Chaifetz took to YouTube to complain that Altenburg, as the responsible teacher, should be removed from her position in the district.

Wieliczko went on to say that the media attention has affected not only Altenburg, but an unlucky 23-year-old Minnesota college student of the same name, whose likeness has been posted online in mistaken reference to the Cherry Hill teacher, and who is, by coincidence, studying to become a special education teacher.

"Without defining the word 'threatened,' we're concerned about Mrs. Altenburg," Wieliczko said.

According to a statement released by the Cherry Hill school district today, Altenburg was placed on paid leave pending a complete investigation of the matter.

"The Administration, with the assistance of counsel, is continuing to investigate what occurred in the classroom in question," the statement reads. "Since the evidence presented is audio only, it is imperative that the improper conduct identified on the recording is correctly identified to the person(s) who committed the conduct.

"New Jersey law provides protection to tenured employees against immediate dismissal...While we understand the public’s desire for more information and action, we hope as well that you will understand we are legally constrained in the amount of information we can release and any immediate action we can take."

frank April 28, 2012 at 03:27 PM
just another over paid teacher! hope njea takes care of your lawsuit!
annelouise April 29, 2012 at 03:00 PM
If ms Altenburg has no guilt, why is she hiding out? Make a public apology or explanation. She was the Head of this classroom. Is she saying that she has no control once she walks out? Also - this has been going on for a while, it seems. How convenient of her to never be there when any of the abuse is going on but yet report the boy's so called bad behavior to his father as though she knows 1st hand. Hmmm. She can hire lawyers to the cows come home, she is guilty of being a lousy teacher no matter what the outcome.
P of the USA April 29, 2012 at 08:59 PM
The ends do not justify the means in this case. New Jersey state statutes cover surreptitious recording, one party must agree to the recording (it's a 1 party state in regards the statute NJ STATUTE $$ 2A:156A-3,-4). The 10yr old could not enter into said agreement no one else gave their consent. The school teachers had a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy. Why the state of New Jersey has not brought criminal charges against the father or at least admonished him for his actions is very questionable. The Law is just that we are a nation that is guided by law it does not always make everyone happy. I sympathize with the father however his Illegal actions being sensationalized in the media is profoundly disturbing.
John Vogel April 30, 2012 at 06:58 PM
P... are you trying to say you believe educators have a right to privacy when dealing with our children in a closed classroom? Are you saying parents have no rights to no knowing how their child is being treated within said classroom? Do you really believe teachers should have a "Reasonable Expectation of Privacy" while teaching their classes, and that parents should just let the teachers do and say whatever they want to their children? IMHO... Classrooms (Especially those with special needs children) should be CONSTANTLY under monitoring and supervision by third parties through video and audio, and parents/caregivers should have immediate access to said video/audio. This is not a case of a private individual having their privacy invaded, this is a case of caregivers/teachers being properly monitored and supervised, and if the state cannot put such monitoring in place, it falls on US, the parents/caregivers, to do such monitoring.
John Vogel April 30, 2012 at 07:03 PM
In response to Ms. Altenbergs Lawyers comments, If she was not in the classroom during all of the incidents, where was she? Is she not responsible for seeing that those left in charge are doing their job corrects whether she is present or absent? If I were a teacher in this position, I would not be hiding out and trying to cover my own colloquial ass, but I would be making a public statement, apologizing for the situation and expressing my sincere horror at the things uncovered through the recording. This statement only tends to shed a worse light on Altenberg and raises more questions toward her honesty and integrity, IMHO.
NJ DefeatBullies May 03, 2012 at 12:30 AM
BY NJ LAW, this matter must be reported to the Institutional Abuse division of DYFS! The fact that it STILL has not been reported should (also by law) cause the revocation of the certifications of ALL district administrators and school personnel. Suspicion or knowledge of abuse (mental &/or physical) or neglect mandates (via NJ law) a call to DYFS by each and every informed member of the staff/district. Although it is inexcusably late, a load of folks should be trying to cover their certificates by calling DYFS IMMEDIATELY!
azerena May 07, 2012 at 01:19 AM
She was out of the classroom for an hour so she was only there for 5 and 1/2 hours instead of 6. She was the TEACHER. They were AIDES. She had a greater responsiblity for what happened in that classroom than anyone else. Do you think that the only day these people behaved like this just happened to be the one day that Akian had a recorder on him? Apparently this was how they spent their days. So not only were they verbally abusive and neglectful, they weren't TEACHING the kids anything. @ P of the USA: bullshit. Let them bring charges against the father. No jury in the country would convict him...unless they find 11 more dumb***es like you.

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