Tuesday, February 13, 2001
Steamboat Springs The mother of an Oak Creek student allegedly assaulted by a school janitor spoke out Tuesday.
"I'm not trying to deface this man, but how dare he accuse these kids and assault them," said Laurie Anderson, mother of one of the students who claimed they were shoved by janitor Chris Neil.
"He threw one (kid) up against the wall. He grabbed my son through a coat and two shirts and pinched his back."
The 49-year-old high school janitor has been charged with four counts of third-degree assault and one count of harassment. The children involved were middle school students who were using a bathroom at the high school. Middle school students share some classrooms at the high school.
The Oak Creek police chief said there were red marks on two of the students, and he has photographs to prove it.
Chief Dan Kelliher said he also has taken a "whole stack" of written statements and has independent witnesses who say Neil pushed the kids.
"The allegations are that Mr. Neil was upset because he apparently felt the kids had been clogging the toilets intentionally," Kelliher said. "He became upset and went into the bathroom and that's where the alleged assaults occurred."
Anderson said the toilets were already clogged when her son and his three friends went into the bathroom. She said she talked with two other boys as well, and they all had the same story.
"The kids had just gone in the bathroom and they weren't even in there long enough to do anything and he walked in and started cursing them," Anderson said.
"He took it out on the boys because they happened to be in there."
Neil has been described by many as a hard-working, ideal employee who was liked by students, teachers and administrators.
He was noted for being kind to students, bringing them ice cream and candy. The principal said Neil had even used his own money to buy ice cream for the entire high school student body this week.
While admitting Neil has a good side, Anderson said she believes his alleged actions point to a different side.
Anderson believes high school students were responsible for plugging up the toilets and Neil shouldn't have taken it out on the middle schoolers.
Neil, a 15-year employee, has been suspended with pay while the investigation continues.
Anderson said her son and the other students involved are being harassed by high school students for getting Neil in trouble.