Westminster Public Schools fires teacher over Facebook comments about special-needs students

Westminster Public Schools is moving to fire a kindergarten teacher after he reportedly posted what Superintendent Pamela Swanson called “despicable and appalling” comments about students with special needs.

A screenshot of a profane Facebook comment by Peter Mandell, a teacher at Skyline Vista Elementary at 7395 Zuni St., surfaced over the weekend that, in part, called students with special needs by a slur and suggested they stay home during the pandemic because “they were (slur) before Covid they’ll still be (slur) after.”

In a video statement, Swanson said the district immediately began investigating the incident and is preparing dismissal charges against Mandell. The charges will be presented at a special board meeting Tuesday to begin the dismissal process.

“Those (comments) in no way, shape or form reflect how the many dedicated teachers and staff members feel, and board members, in Westminster Public Schools,” Swanson said. “It doesn’t reflect our philosophy or values.”

Mandell told Fox31 he did not post the comment and that his Facebook account had been hacked.

The incident comes as districts nationwide prepare for what will be an unusual school year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Westminster Public Schools is preparing to host in-person classes five days a week for all grade levels, starting Aug. 20, with additional safety protocols such as requiring students and staff to wear masks and conducting temperature and symptom screenings for those entering the building.

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