school hallSticks and stones may break your bones, but some words might get you canned. That's the lesson an Oxford, Pennsylvania high school principal learned after allegedly calling a student with bipolar disorder a "psychopath."

Apparently, during a meeting with the special needs student and his mother, Dr. David Madden was caught sending a text message in which he called the kid a "psychopath" and that he was worried this student would become another "Hinckley, Booth, or Oswald."

Further investigation revealed he may have also called the kid "the biggest accident waiting to happen" and "the inspiration for the CSI show on school killing sprees ..." in an email.

Now I have no idea what this principal has been dealing with when it came to this particular child. Madden may have been at his wits' end. And he is human and completely entitled to a personal opinion. But given his position, that was not an appropriate thing to do, especially in the middle of a meeting with a parent.

This kind of insensitivity is appalling, especially for a school administrator. Special needs kids require a great deal of patience and understanding and they need staff who are able to provide that.

An even bigger issue? He is the leader of that school and as such sets the tone others follow. Nasty remarks like that can suggest to other teachers it's OK to make snide, hurtful comments as well. After all, if the boss does it, why can't they. And what about the students. If the principal calls this kid names, doesn't it give bullies the green light to do it too?

Ultimately the school board decided to reinstate Madden with one condition -- he can no longer work with special needs students. Stories like this should be a warning to all parents -- not just those with special needs kids. We need to watch the messages and behaviors our children pick up from everyone in their lives. Clearly bad influences can come from adults as well as peers.

Do you think this principal did anything wrong?


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