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Lawyer for Kelly Altenburg: My Client Wasn't in the Room

An attorney for the embattled special education teacher says she wasn't present for the remarks captured on Stuart Chaifetz's secret audio recording.

According to her attorney, Matthew Wieliczko, Kelly Altenburg was not present in her classroom when the worst of the remarks were allegedly made to 10-year-old Akian Chaifetz in her special education classroom at the Horace Mann School in Cherry Hill.  

At a press conference Friday, Wieliczko told the media that Altenburg was in a meeting at the time, and that she "does not condone the words and the conduct" of the people whose voices were captured on the recording.

"This language was not used by her or in her presence, or at her direction," he said.

Wieliczko went on to say that Altenburg "[n]either said [those words n]or was in the presence of others" heard on the audio footage captured by Stuart Chaifetz, Akian's father, who slipped a digital recorder into his son's pocket after he was unable to reconcile reports of the boy acting out in class with his docile behavior elsewhere.

The case has caused a national stir since Stuart Chaifetz took to YouTube to complain that Altenburg, as the responsible teacher, should be removed from her position in the district.

Wieliczko went on to say that the media attention has affected not only Altenburg but an unlucky 23-year-old Minnesota college student of the same name, whose likeness has been posted online in mistaken reference to the Cherry Hill teacher.

(In a twist of fate, the younger Kelly Altenburg is studying to become a special education teacher.)

"Without defining the word 'threatened,' we're concerned about Mrs. Altenburg," Wieliczko said.

According to a statement released by the Cherry Hill school district today, Altenburg was placed on paid leave pending a complete investigation of the matter.

"The Administration, with the assistance of counsel, is continuing to investigate what occurred in the classroom in question," the statement reads. "Since the evidence presented is audio only, it is imperative that the improper conduct identified on the recording is correctly identified to the person(s) who committed the conduct.

"New Jersey law provides protection to tenured employees against immediate dismissal...While we understand the public’s desire for more information and action, we hope as well that you will understand we are legally constrained in the amount of information we can release and any immediate action we can take."

becauseYOUhavealltheanswers April 30, 2012 at 05:53 AM
mike; these teachers can love the kids. theres nothing against that. but do you really think its fair of them to be calling that little boy a bastard?? it wouldnt matter if he was a girl or not. its wrong. im confused, are you saying it was right for them to use this foul language because he was a 10yr old male child? to the extent of my knowledge foul language isnt a course or skill required to teach.
ItWasWrong April 30, 2012 at 03:16 PM
BecauseYOUhavealltheanswers, You would be 100% correct in everything you said. :-) Thank You.
AnonCinnCity May 03, 2012 at 01:02 PM
You know what, if they sign up to be a teacher they deal with whatever comes there way. and walt don't ever make a comment like that about not wanting to teach kids like that. have some respect.
Tim Durkin May 03, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Mike, my brother in-law is father to a 24 year od autistic daughter. He just recently lost his wife who passed away at 49. Neither of them are heavy drinkers, or take pills. as a matter of fact he does not drink at all. I think you are painting with a VERY wide brush and should be careful with how you group people. If people drink or medicate themselves it likely out of self pity more then dealing with their autisic child. Those that embrace the child find it rewarding and find your comments offensive. My neice is a wonderful human being and I just recently learned more about her then ever as my wife has taken a very active role in her life. I suggest you try to learn about these kids. The love they give back is wonderful, and is what is helping my brother in-law get throught the tragic loss of his wife.
Shandi Rose May 03, 2012 at 05:29 PM
After listening to the youtube audio, it seems that the teacher was most definitely present while discussing what to tell the father in case he showed up on field day to explain her absence since she apparantly wanted to be paid for the day even though she wasn't going to show up, lmao. "Tell him I'm inside"

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