Cherry Hill teacher caught up in recording incident to return to classroom

Posted: August 25, 2014

A Cherry Hill teacher placed on paid leave in 2012 after a secret recording revealed staff members' abusive remarks toward a student will return to the district next month, her lawyer said Friday.

A parent had stashed the recording device in his autistic son's pocket to try to learn why the boy had been acting out in school. The incident drew national attention when the father uploaded a 6½-hour recording to YouTube.

A judge ruled in May that the surreptitious recording was illegal.

On the recording, staff members in special education teacher Kelly Altenburg's classroom at Horace Mann Elementary School could be heard lobbing insults at the student, who was 10. An adult referred to the boy as a "bastard."

An aide substitute assigned to the classroom on the day of the recording was not invited back to the district, and another aide resigned.

Altenburg's lawyers had said she was outside the classroom during the relevant portion of the recording.

Months after the allegations were made public in April 2012, school and state officials cleared Altenburg of any wrongdoing in connection with alleged harassment, intimidation, and bullying, attorney Matthew Wieliczko said Friday.

The district superintendent then filed tenure charges against Altenburg, who has worked for the district for about 15 years, accusing her of "conduct unbecoming of a teaching staff member," according to a court transcript. In May, a Camden Superior Court judge dismissed the charges, Wieliczko said, determining that the taped recording violated the New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act.

A court transcript Wieliczko provided Friday appeared to confirm that account. The Associated Press on Friday first reported Altenburg's reinstatement.

Altenburg recently received a letter from the school district learning she would be teaching in the fall, but her attorney said he was not sure where. The Cherry Hill school district could not be reached Friday evening.

"She's pleased that she has been cleared of all harassment, intimidation, and bullying - which is what she said from day one," Wieliczko said.

"She's had a tough couple years," he added.



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