Special ed teacher fired for grabbing, yelling, dropping students

Special ed teacher fired for grabbing, yelling, dropping students »Play Video

TACOMA, Wash. -- A Tacoma special needs teacher has been fired after the district found he used inappropriate levels of force, yelled at some of his students, and kept them in ‘time out’ for longer periods of time than advised.

Tim Robnett, a special education teacher at Larchmont Elementary School, was terminated after a five-month investigation, records show. District leaders found Robnett “exercised inappropriate judgment” when it came to student behavior and failed to maintain a safe environment in the classroom.

In a written statement to the district, Robnett denied that he grabbed students, isolated them for lengthy amounts of time, and told investigators he would ‘never intentionally hurt a student.’

Robnett did not answer his door Wednesday. His attorney is out of the country and could not comment on the case, said a man who answered the phone at Robnett’s attorney’s office.

“We can’t really talk too much about this case. The public records kind of speak for themselves,” said Elle Warmuth, a spokeswoman for the Tacoma School District. “Safety is a very high priority, and we want to provide a safe learning environment for our students."

"If that doesn’t happen we’re going to follow the proper procedures to remove a teacher or staff member from the classroom," Warmuth said.

Robnett was involuntarily transferred to Larchmonth from Reed Elementary School after he failed to manage student behavior there appropriately, documents show. He had been with the district since 2007, but became a certified teacher in 2013.

“I would definitely have to ask a few questions before I put my kids at this school,” said Blane Cooper, a father of three and a Larchmont graduate. “It’s scary and it actually disgusts me. That bothers me so much. I really don’t even feel comfortable talking about it.”

Larchmont’s principal learned about the allegations against Robnett in January and then confronted him about them, according to documents obtained from the case.

“One of your students was left face down on the floor while you were heard yelling at him to get up. You picked this student up by the armpits and then dropped him, causing his head to hit the floor in a manner that was described as ‘hard,’” reads Robnett’s termination letter. “You were leaving a specific student in an isolation area for 2-3 times per day for up to 45 minutes at a time.” 

The Office of the State Superintendent, which licensed Robnett, is now investigating, said Nathan Olson, a spokesman for the office.

The entire interview with district spokeswoman Elle Warmuth is available here.