At times, it appeared the district was pressuring O’Donnell to retire. But he hired an attorney and fought for his job, buoyed by the community support.
O’Donnell was suspended when a mother complained he left her son unattended in the rain after the boy misbehaved in a PE class. He was teaching a physical education class in the Henderson Mill Elementary School gym, a separate building connected to the main school building by a covered walkway.
O'Donnell made the child stand outside the door to the walkway to simmer down, according to supporters. They contend the boy left the covered area and went into the rain. However, his mother told a TV station her son remained outside for 30 minutes in the cold and the rain, condemning the discipline as dangerous.
Here is a statement O'Donnell released to his supporters Thursday night:
I am grateful to my community of over 1,000 supporters that included prominent leadership from around the country and most importantly, ordinary moms and dads who care about their children whom I have been blessed to know, many of them being former students of mine themselves.
I am so very grateful to each of you for your vigilance, your community organizing, and your testament to the impact I've had on your and your children's lives over the past four decades.
I am honored to be the beneficiary of a GoFundMe campaign created by the Henderson Mill community to cover my legal fees and expenses, the remainder of which will be donated to the Henderson Mill Physical Education Scholarship Fund.