Several dozen protesters march along Henderson Mill Road in front of Henderson Mill Elementary School Friday to support longtime physical education teacher James O’Donnell, who was suspended by DeKalb County School District officials for how he punished one of his students. MARLON A. WALKER / MARLON.WALKER@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DeKalb gym teacher, suspended last fall, will be returning to class

James O’Donnell, the Henderson Mill Elementary School physical education teacher off work since November, when a student said O’Donnell sent him outside in the rain as punishment for misbehaving, will get to return to class Monday.

Tara Gilmore told Channel 2 Action News in November that O’D, as the teacher is called, made her son stand outside the school gym on Nov. 9 for spinning on the floor during class. When her son, Joe, came home from school that day, his clothes were still soaked. O’Donnell was put on administrative leave with pay a short time later.

Parents and supporters said the teacher told the student to stand outside the gymnasium, which has a covered walkway from the gym door to the school’s main building.

District officials said in a statement in late November that it “the occurrence has been investigated and DCSD has taken appropriate action based on its findings.”

A statement from the district Friday confirmed O’Donnell is expected to return to work at Henderson Mill Elementary on Monday. “We are preparing for his return to ensure a successful remainder of the school year for all students at Henderson Mill Elementary,” it said.

Officials have offered no reason why the process took nearly four months.

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