23 Aug 2014
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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."

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