SWARTZ CREEK (WJRT) (4/11/2018) - A contingent supporting a Swartz Creek teacher packed a school board meeting on Wednesday evening to fight back against demands he resign or be fired.
Swartz Creek Strength and Conditioning teacher and football coach Shawn Fitzgerald was involved in an altercation with a student in February. Administrators since have told him to either resign or face termination.
The community doesn't want to see him go. Current and former students say Fitzgerald has affected their lives in a positive manner.
They don't want this one bad moment to define the thousands of good ones.
One student says she witnessed the moment.
"He (Fitzgerald) said you have five seconds to get out of my classroom and the kid didn't seem to care. He just slowly walked back,” Swartz Creek freshman Kristina Zerka said.
Zerka takes Fitzgerald's strength and conditioning class during fifth hour, where the incident started. She said the altercation was unlike anything she had never seen before.
"This kid had walked in there, and I had never seen him before. He had walked in and Fitz seemed to have a relationship with him and something happened that I didn't see. I think he (Fitzgerald) said he (student) touched him or something happened,” Zerka said.
More than 100 people came out to ask the Swartz Creek school board to keep their teacher.
"He's been through enough. You've already punished him. You suspended and defamed his character by what he thought what he was doing was right,” Kelly Paulsen, a concerned parent said.
She believes backing the student would set a dangerous precedent for the district.
“You're going to get some roughhouse boys who are just going to run around and abuse teachers," Paulsen said.
Zerka's mom also spoke up urging the board to keep Fitzgerald.
"I will say, after talking to my daughter, I thank Shawn for what he did. I am so glad at what he did to handle the threat because that's what it was -- he handled the threat and removed it from the classroom away from my daughter,” Natalie Fox said.
The school board president wouldn't comment on the matter. Board members haven't decided on Fitzgerald's employment.