Education

Raleigh teacher says school administrators ignored threats

Posted May 10, 2011 3:12 p.m. EDT
Updated May 10, 2011 6:47 p.m. EDT

— A Raleigh high school teacher whom police say was poisoned by one of her students says there was a history of threats against her that school administrators ignored.

On the morning of April 7, Roseann Monteleone, a business teacher at Leesville Road High School, passed out in the school bathroom after drinking from a can of Coca-Cola.

"I knew, instantly, that it had been tampered with," Monteleone, 46, recalled. "I couldn't breathe. I had no idea who would have done this."

Immediately after drinking from the can, she said, she felt an extreme burning in her throat.

"Everything started to go black," she said.

Monteleone was taken to Rex Hospital in Raleigh, where she doctors found she had also suffered lesions in her throat.

Raleigh police arrested senior Cody Austin Beckett, 18, of 5205 Indigo Moon Way, and charged him with assault on a school employee after he admitted to putting hand cleaner in Monteleone's open soda while she was out of the classroom.

His attorney, Dan Boyce, said Beckett didn't mean any harm and that the act was meant to be a high school prank.

Four months earlier, Monteleone says, she received a threat in the form of a note with "You're done" written on it.

The next day, she said, someone had drawn a gun on the board.

Monteleone says the school system didn't take the threat seriously, and she says school administrators told the school resource officer they would handle the matter.

School officials say they were only aware of the complaint involving the drawing on the board. They say that police investigated it but were never able to prove who was responsible.

"Her principal monitored the situation and was vigilant for several weeks and months after the fact to make sure that she was indeed safe," Wake County Public School System spokesman Michael Evans said.

Monteleone says the school system does not do enough to ensure teachers' safety.

School leaders disagree, pointing to a survey where more than 93 percent of teachers in Wake County said they felt secure in their workplace.

"If an employee has concerns about their safety, there's a variety of ways to let those concerns be known," Evans said.

Dangerous offenses, like what happened to Monteleone, are down, Evans said. Last year, there were 81 incidents. So far this school year, there are 36.

But Monteleone says she is concerned about how those incidents are handled.

She thinks administrators are reluctant to use strong punishments such as long-term suspensions.

"There is an underlying fear of, 'Well, what happens if the parents sue us?"

"Whether somebody will or will not sue us is not really a consideration," Evans said.

Monteleone says she hopes her talking about what happened to her will bring awareness and a change.

"This happened to me," she said. "I don't ever want this to happen to anybody else."