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.
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.