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South High students rally behind teacher

May 11, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

o See the online petition to end James Knodle's suspension from South Hagerstown High School:

HAGERSTOWN -- Students at South Hagerstown High School are asking that teacher James Knodle be allowed to return to the classroom after he allegedly tackled an "insubordinate student," according to an online petition.

Sarah Riley, a South High student who last week presented to the Washington County Board of Education petitions signed by students supporting Knodle, said the social studies teacher and softball coach has been suspended since April 23. Riley, the recording secretary for the school's student government association, said the petitions were student-generated.

The petitions Riley submitted to the school board last week had more than 300 signatures asking that Knodle's suspension be lifted and a separate online petition had 47 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

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Reached at his home Monday afternoon, Knodle declined to comment on the petitions or the reason for his suspension.

Washington County Public Schools spokesman Richard Wright said the school system does not comment on personnel matters. He did confirm that Knodle is a school system employee and a teacher at South High.

He would not say whether Knodle is currently teaching or how long he has been an employee with the school system.

A Hagerstown Police Department dispatcher said Monday she was unable to find a record of police response to an incident at South Hagerstown High School involving Knodle, but said a school resource officer could be investigating an incident.

The online petition states, "(Knodle) was suspended because the school administrators believed he demonstrated excessive force in the handling of the situation. However, I belive (sic) that there was no 'excessive' force, watching how 'certain' other administrators handle these situations there (was) sure as heck no excessive force."

According to a letter on the Web site with the online petition, students are distributing green ribbons to show their support for Knodle, a South High graduate. The letter states that Knodle has been replaced by a long-term substitute.

"(Knodle) is a catalyst for discussion and debate; he challenges us every day to think beyond conventional ideas," according to the online letter. "He inspires an interest in social studies and history that many of us would not otherwise have."

One of the student petitions obtained by The Herald-Mail said Knodle should return to the classroom because he makes a fine addition to the staff, understands the importance of safety and education, makes an excellent softball coach, is an active role model, and understands his responsibilities and boundaries as a teacher.

A second petition presented by Riley states, "We, the undersigned students, protest the injustice being done to us by our administration, and hereby call for a return to normalcy in our school and the opportunity for James Knodle to provide us with the education that we deserve."

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