A teacher at Lawton Middle School in Van Buren County has been disciplined for telling a sixth-grade boy to "go shoot himself," according to the district's superintendent.
"We did have an incident where a 32-year veteran teacher, who has an impeccable record, got frustrated with the class and was trying to quiet it down," said Joseph Trimboli, the Lawton Community Schools superintendent.
"The teacher shared with me that it was a moment of frustration. She was about to swear and she caught herself. She was grasping for words. She was trying to tell the kid to stop this. Instead, she ended up saying what she said."
What she said, Trimboli told 24 Hour News 8, was "you should go shoot yourself."
She also threatened to lock students in a detention room, and slammed the door in frustration, according to the district.
"It definitely was not intended for him to actually go and do this," Trimboli said.
The district did "admonish" the teacher, he added, although it did not suspend her or give her any time out of the classroom.
The district "dealt with (the incident) in accordance with policy," Trimboli said.
But the boy's family believes her punishment should be harsher.
"Teachers know better," said Brian Melson, Nathan Melson's father.
Added his mother, Pam Melson: "If she would have said it to the wrong child, it could have been a real bad tragedy."
The teacher made the comment in early December 2010. The sixth-grader's parents came to him two weeks later with a letter to the school board, he added. Trimboli spoke with the parents at that time and thought the issue was resolved. But then, on Monday of this week, Brian Melson showed up and "demanded" the teacher be fired.
"We don't need that in this community," he said.
At the very least, the Melsons want to see the teacher suspended without pay.
"I can't explain how it makes me feel, that somebody said that to my child," Pam Melson said.
Trimboli offered to move the child out of the teacher's class, he said, but the father refused. The family is talking about rallying, or circulating a petition, calling for the district to do something more.
The teacher -- whose name won't be released by 24 Hour News 8 -- apologized to the class and to the student the day after making the comment. Trimboli said he, too, spoke with the student.
"I told him that sometimes adults do unfortunate things and this was one of them," he said. "I didn't want him to take it personally. The kid seemed OK with it. I think the father just won't let it die.
"I feel bad that any adult would ever make a comment to a kid such as that. You hate to see a 12-year-old -- and they're fragile at that age -- have to hear something like that from an adult."
But, the superintendent said, he also feels bad for the teacher, who Trimboli said has an impeccable record with not a single disciplinary action in her file.
"I know that we've admonished the teacher according to procedure and it's time to move on," he said.
News 8 tried to contact the teacher over the phone and at her home, but has not heard back.
"She's usually fine," Nathan said.
Added Pam Melson: "I know she's a good teacher -- I had her myself."