DUBLIN – The headmaster of a college in Dublin was put on paid administrative leave on Monday after a video was taken of him in a heated exchange with a mother and son from high school.
“The Dublin Unified School District is aware of an incident on the Wells Middle School campus involving the principal, Mark Neal,” read an email message the school district sent to parents and staff on Monday afternoon. “Sir. Neal is now on administrative leave with pay pending a full, thorough and fair investigation into the situation.”
While the video does not indicate that the volatile discussion inside an office ever turned physical, the confrontation caused a stir in the community. Some people, commenting on a Nextdoor article containing the video, requested Neal’s dismissal.
But dozens of teachers and staff at Wells gathered outside the school Tuesday morning to express their support for Neal, who they say has been a unifying presence since taking office last year.
The video, which appears to have been recorded surreptitiously by the high school student during the meeting, drew a lot of comments on Nextdoor.
Some commentators criticized Neal for losing his temper, others criticized the student and his mother for being rude to Neal. A few said all three had shown poor judgment during the meeting. “They all mismanaged their anger,” one person wrote.
Neal can be heard at the start of the video berating the student for being on or near the Wells campus on Friday.
“I just need you to understand, man, you weren’t right in what you did on Friday. I don’t care what you think, but you weren’t right, man. And I need to that you’re not here after school. Not because of you. I don’t like high school kids here after school, “Neal said.
A district spokesperson said Wells is a closed campus, although some visitors, such as classroom volunteers, are allowed after checking in at the school office.
When the student begins to speak after being reprimanded, Neal interrupts him and the two begin to raise their voices towards each other in the video. It appears that Neal stands up to face the student while telling him to “kick the rocks right now” and the student says “what are you going to do?” “
“This is my site. … I’m handling this, ”Neal said.
The student’s mother then said, “You don’t do that to people. What are you doing?… He’s a child.
“This man has just burst into flames against me. I had it all on video, ”the student says, as the camera suddenly shows Neal talking to the parent.
Most of the nearly two-minute video only showed the floor and underside of a table until the loud exchanges near the end of the footage.
Dublin Police said a school resources official was sent to Wells Middle School on Friday, September 17, around 3:15 p.m. after receiving a report of a “school-aged” person provoking ” a disturbance on a bicycle in this region “.
Police said the person “has been contacted by our SRO and dispersed from the area.”
Dublin Unified School District spokesperson Chip Dehnert said on Tuesday that “to the best of my knowledge” the high school student in the video with Neal was the same student who was contacted by Dublin Police on the Wells campus Friday.
Dehnert said the district cannot share many details at this time as there is an active investigation to establish the facts.
“We certainly understand the desire for more information, we get a lot of it, but until we understand everything that has happened, we are not able to share information, and that is a human resource situation, ”Dehnert said.
“There are a lot of pieces in the puzzle and we try to put them all together,” Dehnert added.
Neal said in a text message to this news agency on Tuesday that he could not comment during the ongoing investigation.
Robbie Kreitz, a special education teacher at Wells, said she and her colleagues learned on Monday that Neal had been put on leave. On Tuesday, they were talking to parents and handing out flyers with short messages expressing their gratitude for Neal’s work.
“We really, really, really appreciate our principal and what he has done for us as a school,” she said.
“He’s a career educator, someone who puts children first. And he came to us during the pandemic. He was able to create unity when all of our interactions were on Zoom, ”she said.
“There is so much misinformation going around,” she said.
Dublin Unified superintendent Chris Funk said on Tuesday he could not comment on what led to Neal’s dismissal.
“Up to this point, Mr. Neal has been highly respected by his staff, community and peers,” said Funk.
“We have high expectations of the professionalism of all staff from top to bottom, and I expect this to be displayed at all times. And I also expect staff to do their best to defuse situations that lead to conflict, ”said Funk.
“In this situation, there is a video that has gone viral and people are already taking sides,” Funk said.
“I’m just asking that people stay calm and allow us to complete our investigation and allow due process,” he said.