In a short special meeting Tuesday night, Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education members voted to fire a Webster Middle School special education probationary teacher after he allegedly put an “inappropriate hold” on a student.
Neither Stephen Gainor nor any representative on his behalf attended the meeting, the sole purpose of which was to conduct the employment termination hearing after the district said he held an 11-year-old student down for more than three minutes on Feb. 16 and also failed to safeguard confidential student records.
Documents provided by OKCPS detailing the facts of the case appear to show that the district has had no communication with Gainor since a telephone interview with him March 30. The district placed Gainor, who had been employed by OKCPS since July 2020, on paid leave Feb. 28.
Hearing officer Jefferey Bryant asked numerous times during the meeting if Gainor or anyone on his behalf was there to defend him, receiving no answer each time.
The OKCPS teacher union, which would normally represent him in such a matter, has also not had any communication with him since April 21, according to Bryant. Gainor’s daughter requested that the American Federation of Teachers stop contacting him about the ongoing termination proceedings, Bryant said.
“Suffice it to say that he is unrepresented or will be representing himself during this hearing,” Bryant said.
‘We hoped to not be here tonight’
Lawyers for OKCPS presented their case Tuesday night, describing Gainor’s “aggressive behavior and lack of judgement” on Feb. 16 while teaching a math class.
According to a district case document (embedded below), Webster Middle School Assistant Principal Carolyn Porter was in Gainor’s classroom for the duration of the altercation after walking the 11-year-old male student back to the classroom after he had become upset.
The OKCPS document alleges that Gainor, in response to the student kicking loose floor tiles, called the student’s parent and said the student had been throwing furniture, which upset the student further. Porter said the student had not been throwing furniture, but after Gainor called the student’s parent the student began kicking desks.
Gainor then “used his right hand to hold down [the student’s] left hip bone and his left hand on [the student’s] head on the ground.”
Gainor held the student there for nearly three minutes, despite Porter verbalizing numerous commands to stop, according to the document. Other administrators arrived, and Webster Principal Victoria Echols said she saw Gainor sitting on the student’s side to hold him on the ground. At some point during the interaction, Gainor scraped his hand and ended up receiving medical assistance.
An Oklahoma City Police Department official said the department has no records pertaining to the incident, which does not appear to have been reported to law enforcement.
Gainor took a “post-accident drug screening,” and the district automatically placed him on paid leave while he waited for the results, which came back negative on Feb. 27.
During the course of the subsequent investigation, OKCPS also discovered that Gainor “had in plain view and easy access unsecured FERPA-protected student records in his classroom, which were illegally made available to other students,” the document alleges.
“It’s important to know that we hoped to not be here tonight having this hearing,” said OKCPS staff attorney Deisy Escalera, who represented the district’s administration during the hearing. “But Mr. Gainor’s lack of communication with his union representative and with the district has given us no other choice.”
As Gainor submitted no evidence or witnesses to make his case during the hearing, OKCPS did not call on any of its witnesses, which included Porter and Echols.
After a 20-minute executive session, the board voted to accept the district’s findings in the case and terminate Gainor’s employment.
Attempts to contact Gainor by email and phone were unsuccessful prior to the publication of this article.