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Fired Wantagh MS Custodian Reinstated

School board votes to reinstate Melvin Turner to custodial position pending outcome of mental health evaluation.

A beloved autistic custodian at Wantagh Middle School, who garnered widespread community support after being fired from his job, may soon be getting a second chance.

Patrick Ryder, longtime neighbor and friend Melvin Turner, told reporters outside the Wantagh Administrative offices late Friday afternoon that the school board has agreed to rehire him to his part-time custodial position pending the outcome of a mental health evaluation, according to CBS New York. Turner, 45, was previously let go by the district because of alleged threatening remarks he made about harming school property during an outburst to students in July while walking home after being bullied earlier in the day. The outburst was recorded on a cell phone camera and handed over to district officials.

The Wantagh Board of Education has not yet released a statement on the decision to reinstate Turner. 

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The prevous firing of Turner, who has been a fixture at Wantagh school events through the years, prompted hundreds to flock the Sept. 13 board of education meeting voicing support for him getting his job back. Supporters of Turner argued that he did not mean the words said in the outburst and has never been a threat to students. Turner, a lifelong Wantagh resident, was first hired as a part-time middle school custodian in 2007.

In addition to being fired from his custodian job, Turner was also not allowed the enter school grounds until the board of education reversed that policy at the end of its Sept. 13 meeting. Turner’s firing had followed a police investigation and subsequent suspension. Turner supporters said he has been the victim of bullies since he was a youngster.

A fundraising campaign to help Turner with his bills has been launched by Ryder. An indiego.com account for Turner that people can make donations to online at can be found by clicking here.

The decision to reinstate Turner pending a mental health evaluation comes two days after the district announced that new Superintendent Phil D’Angelo has taken a leave of absence with Forest Lake Elementary School Principal Maureen Goldberg taking over his responsibilities. The school board has not commented on D'Angelo's leave since it is a personell matter.

Marilyn September 25, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Who cares what Mel said after his torment. The question is why are the bullies Not being investigated? Is it because his parent works for the district! Mel should have a lawyer and an order of protection against these boys. Then Mel can go Back to work and these bullies will not be allowed on school grounds or in the Building. If their parents cannot control them, then they ALL need help!!! This boy has a long history of trouble in this community. As he gets older, his behaviors will become worse. He is not going to outgrow this. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!
wantagh September 25, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Some of you are really crazy!I I am so embarrassed to live here. Parents who are bullies themselves,calling for kids to bully other kids. Mentioning kids names . Wake up yourself.. How do you know who did this?T There has been thirty years of bulling Mel. Were any of you the bully back then? Do you have severe guilt? Do you even know where your own kids were every summer night that Mel was upset? Did your kids come home and tell you I saw Mel bullied by so and so. Did you have a personal problems with these boys you are blaming this on? If so why use Mel to get your points across. Why hasnt this come up in the last thirty years? Please look in the mirror and I am sure you will then know why Wantagh has all the problems with bullies. Then take the not my kid attitudes that most have and start over, Show your kids how to treat others by your actions. Stop blaming everyone else when you are just as guilty.
Jennifer Gurley Bursik October 01, 2012 at 05:11 AM
I am an aluma of Wantagh schools (k-12) and part of a social group of current and former Wantagh students and residents. Many in our group, which comprises almost 950 members, are confused and disturbed by the utter silence from the Board of Education on the subject of punishment for Mel Turner's assailants. The term "bullying" has lately absorbed behavior better classified as a criminal action: assault. This went beyond taunting and name-calling; this was not a case of someone knocking a fellow student's books to the floor or mocking him for wearing glasses. These were children engaged in a premeditated, sustained verbal assault on an adult school official for pleasure. We recognize that the names of the children involved are protected by law, and frankly we don't care who they were. We want only assurance that Mr. Turner's attackers either have been or will be appropriately corrected for their actions. That the event took place off school grounds is largely irrelevant. Mr. Turner will be returning to a job where those same students attend class; as such, a relationship exists that may well produce the perception in Mr. Turner that a hostile environment exists there. We believe the Board of Education owes us and the rest of the district an assurance that Mr. Turner is not the only one punished for his actions and forced to undergo a psychological evaluation. We want an assurance that "zero tolerance" policies carry with them sufficient punishment for such major breaches.
Zoe October 01, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Hi Jennifer, my child was bullied at forest lake. Our new super. told my family it was nothing and with repeated visits to her office still did nothing.Candy coated it. So, how can she manage to do this on a grand scale if she cant manage a small school.
Mitch October 01, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Jennifer, I'm against bullying but also know that's it's been going on for centuries. You are wrong, it is very relevant that the bullying occurred off school grounds and while school was not in session. My kid was bullied on my own block by kids in the same school. Is this something the school board needs to get involved in ? It's over- Mel got his job back. Don't make this ALL about bullying- a grown man who works amongst our children made dangerous threats - This was the issue.

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