SANTA FE – The principal of De Vargas Middle School defended himself against a criminal charge before a supportive Santa Fe school board Tuesday night.
Principal Marc Ducharme, facing a misdemeanor count for not calling police to report child abuse when a teacher threw three small paperback books at students on April 30, told the board, “If anything, this incident steels my resolve in turning De Vargas into the model of excellence that it can and will be.”
“For those of you who know me, I don’t BS, I don’t bluff, I don’t go off half-cocked,” Ducharme said. “I was just trying to be as thorough as I could, so each side was equitably heard and represented in this incident.” Board members and Superintendent Joel Boyd wore black De Vargas T-shirts or polo shirts as a show of solidarity.
Others associated with the De Vargas – a teacher, a parent and two students – spoke to support the school after what teacher Zanet Ramos-Benavidez called the “negative attention” generated by the book-throwing case.
Most of them ended their remarks by stating their names and saying, “I am a De Vargas Conqueror,” referring to the name for the school’s sports teams. “I’m just here to raise our flag and say, ‘We are De Vargas,'” Ramos-Benavidez said. “We are better than what has been portrayed by handful of incidents and people who have had their feelings hurt.”
Teacher Marcy Slaughter is facing two counts of felony child abuse for throwing the paperbacks at students who walked out of class against her orders at the end of the school day and after the class had been rowdy following a fire drill. No one was injured.
The mother of a student who says she was hit on the side of her face by a book went to police. A Santa Fe officer met with the mother, students and Ducharme at the school the next day and subsequently filed the felony counts of abuse against Slaughter and a count of obstructing investigation of child abuse against Ducharme.
The case has caused a public split between leaders of Santa Fe schools and police and city officials. Ducharme said Tuesday night, “I worked very hard to develop a positive and collaborative relationship with the Santa Fe Police Department, and I hope this will not hurt our ability to work together to help develop the youth of Santa Fe.”
In an interview Monday, Boyd reiterated support for Ducharme, who reported the incident to SFPS administrators but not to law enforcement.
“It was reasonable for him not to expect this to be child abuse,” Boyd said. “You have an exasperated teacher who threw a paperback book. That’s what he was presented with. What the police are charging or alleging is that he should have suspected this to be child abuse, at which point he should have notified the authorities. That, to me, is taking Monday morning quarterbacking to a whole new level.”