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Lawyer for Kelly Altenburg: My Client Wasn't in the Room

An attorney for the embattled special education teacher says she wasn't present for the remarks captured on Stuart Chaifetz's secret audio recording.

According to her attorney, Matthew Wieliczko, Kelly Altenburg was not present in her classroom when the worst of the remarks were allegedly made to 10-year-old Akian Chaifetz in her special education classroom at the Horace Mann School in Cherry Hill.

At a press conference Friday, Wieliczko told the media that Altenburg was in a meeting at the time, and that she "does not condone the words and the conduct" of the people whose voices were captured on the recording.

"This language was not used by her or in her presence, or at her direction," he said.

Wieliczko went on to say that Altenburg "[n]either said [those words n]or was in the presence of others" heard on the audio footage captured by Stuart Chaifetz, Akian's father, who slipped a digital recorder into his son's pocket after he was unable to reconcile reports of the boy acting out in class with his docile behavior elsewhere.

The case has caused a national stir since Stuart Chaifetz took to YouTube to complain that Altenburg, as the responsible teacher, should be removed from her position in the district.

Wieliczko went on to say that the media attention has affected not only Altenburg but an unlucky 23-year-old Minnesota college student of the same name, whose likeness has been posted online in mistaken reference to the Cherry Hill teacher.

(In a twist of fate, the younger Kelly Altenburg is studying to become a special education teacher.)

"Without defining the word 'threatened,' we're concerned about Mrs. Altenburg," Wieliczko said.

According to a statement released by the Cherry Hill school district today, Altenburg was placed on paid leave pending a complete investigation of the matter.

"The Administration, with the assistance of counsel, is continuing to investigate what occurred in the classroom in question," the statement reads. "Since the evidence presented is audio only, it is imperative that the improper conduct identified on the recording is correctly identified to the person(s) who committed the conduct.

"New Jersey law provides protection to tenured employees against immediate dismissal...While we understand the public’s desire for more information and action, we hope as well that you will understand we are legally constrained in the amount of information we can release and any immediate action we can take."

annelouise April 28, 2012 at 03:00 PM
she wasn't in the room. Oh, ok, that should make it all go away Kelly. If you have nothing to be ashamed about regarding your actions, they why are you hiding? Why not have a press conference and make a public and heart felt apology to this child? What took place, took place in YOUR classroom. You may not have been there that specific hour, but what about all the rest? The has obviously been an ongoing problem for this little boy.
Michelle Wolfson April 28, 2012 at 03:54 PM
She wasn't in the room for "the worst of the comments". So, this implies that she was in the room for comments that were not quite AS offensive and disgusting. Sorry, not much better.
jane April 28, 2012 at 04:15 PM
her classroom, her responsibility - a coward in addition to bully, she should be thoroughly ashamed and apologetic. and the teachers union is protecting her, another example of why the teacher union as organization does more to hurt our children than help them.
Joe April 29, 2012 at 10:36 AM
Like it said in the video, she wasn't there for that one hour, but what about the other six months that this went on before the father of Akian took matters into his own hands? She can't claim no-knowledge for this, since it was her responsibility to watch over all of those students and make sure nothing happened to them. The fact that she has a lawyer to try and defend herself just shows she doesn't want to admit that she was in the wrong and can't admit it.. Any decent human would have made a full apology for this, or if they were a real human, they would have never felt the need to pick on a child with special needs in the first place, because you can't get much more pathetic than that.
rachel calvillo April 29, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I HAVE A GRANDSON WITH AUTISM AND I WORRY CAUSE WE CANT BE IN THE CLASS ROOM WITH HIM SO I HOPE THIS NEVER HAPPENS TO HIM AND I FEEL FOR HIS PARENTS IM ON THERE SIDE
P of the USA April 29, 2012 at 09:05 PM
The ends do not justify the means in this case. New Jersey state statutes cover surreptitious recording, one party must agree to the recording (it's a 1 party state in regards the statute NJ STATUTE $$ 2A:156A-3,-4). The 10yr old could not enter into said agreement no one else gave their consent. The school teachers had a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy. Why the state of New Jersey has not brought criminal charges against the father or at least admonished him for his actions is very questionable. The Law is just that we are a nation that is guided by law it does not always make everyone happy. I sympathize with the father however his Illegal actions being sensationalized in the media is profoundly disturbing.

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