Principal who degraded special education student as “psychopath” retains job

Principal of Oxford Area High School

Dr. Dave Madden (credit

(Oxford, Pennsylvania: a suburb of Philadelphia) Despite being caught texting and emailing comments that degraded a special education student at his school, the Oxford Area School District, a suburban Pennsylvania K-12 district, voted to reinstate the principal of Oxford Area High School on a 6-3 vote. Dr. David Madden had been placed on suspension due to written comments he made regarding a bipolar special education student. At the board meeting following the vote, parents reacted angrily to the decision. Parents discussing the issue had tears in their eyes as they described Dr. Madden’s comments as hurtful and insensitive.

The issue surfaced during a March IEP for the emotionally disturbed student. During the IEP, the student was represented by Lisa Lightner, a special education advocate employed at the Arc of Chester County, a program which provides services to disabled people. Ms. Lightner became bothered when she saw two administrators texting during the meeting. She stole a quick look at the Assistant Principal’s phone and saw that the text was from Dr. Madden, who was also seated at the table, and that it began, “F&!@ this manipulator.”

Ms. Lightner reported the incident to her supervisor. Based on the incidence, Arc instituted a Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) request for all records related to the student. Unearthed in this material were other derogatory messages about the emotionally disturbed student specifically and special educations students in general; all the emails were written and distributed by Dr. Madden via his district email account. In these blasts, he called the student a “psychopath” and expressed concern that the student could be another “Hinkley, Booth, AND Oswald.” (emphasis mine). Regarding special education students generally, he wrote that special education students, who he referred to as “the guilty people,” have more rights than “the innocent.” He went on to state, “Amazing world we live in and equally amazing that people are afraid of lawsuits. I say bring them on.”

Despite all this, the board voted not to fire Dr. Madden, but he has to meet certain stipulations. First, Dr. Madden is no longer be allowed to work with special needs kids. Second, he is being required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Third and finally, Dr. Madden is being required to undergo substance abuse testing. These measures have done little to soothe over harm caused by his comments. In the aftermath, the school’s special education director, Jenny LeSage, quit rather than continuing to work under Dr. Madden. Ms. LeSage was quoted by saying,

Why would you have an administrator in a building where you basically say we don’t want you to have anything to do with 200 kids in the building? It’s the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life

In addition, many parents are outraged over the incident.

When concerned parents showed up to voice their disapproval, the board basically attempted to silence their opposition. Parents and concerned citizens were not allowed to mention the administrator by name. Further, questions brought about the board’s decision were left unaddressed. Ironically, because Dr. Madden degraded the special education student, the board had to meet to discuss paying out a settlement of between $200,000 and $250,000. It looks like the Dr.’s desire for lawsuits is going to come true.


7 thoughts on “Principal who degraded special education student as “psychopath” retains job

  1. This shows that the community needs to hold a recall election for the board and attract candidates who truly care about students rather than just signing off for their political or professional resumes that they held the seat.

  2. Anne and Ann- you are both so correct. When teachers try to stand up and advocate for students, as they should, hostility is frequent from their supervisors, hence the intense need to protect tenure status. Only experienced or VERY naive educators are typically willing to stick their necks out for students who need it most. Since experienced staff cost districts more, if they have no protection, who will be left for those kiddos who need them most? 504, ADA, NAACP (for the civil rights issues)… so many should be on this issue. A quarter of a million is obviously not a tremendous concern for the board. I am left to wonder what kind of dirt does this person have on members of this board that they are willing to accept the financial burden coupled with insulting the community and risking the well-being of all of the students and staff in the buildings to which they have vowed to maintain effective and appropriate stewardship.

    • As a tax payer in Oxford, PA a quarter of a million dollars IS A BIG DEAL. Add on all of the other dollars spent on a acting Principal($500 per day for months!) for the HS while Dr. Madden was on suspension, plus other lawsuits already settled and the number pending and yet to be filed, it infuriates me.

  3. Whatever he has on them has to be big to take on this amount of financial burden and try to justify it to their local residents responsible for the local tax share.

  4. I also found this article….
    The family of a former special-education student at Oxford Area High School who claimed work was withheld from the teen when he was too sick to go to school has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

    The commission suggested the action after learning of the teen’s allegations against his school’s principal.

    The family filed a complaint last month with the state Department of Education against high school principal David Madden, who they say blocked their son from getting assignments during his frequent absences.

    It was the second such complaint against Madden, who was suspended for four months after he sent e-mails and text messages calling a bipolar student a “psycho” and comparing him to Lee Harvey Oswald and other assassins. He also complained that disabled students, who he said were “the guilty ones,” had more rights than traditional students, or “the innocent.”

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