MANCHESTER, Mo. – A music teacher who twice ordered a 7-year-old pupil to hit himself in the head with drum mallets has apologized and won't return to the Parkway School District next year.
The incident occurred Feb. 9 in teacher Paul Provencio's music class at Carman Trails Elementary School in suburban St. Louis.
Provencio, 36, intended the head-banging as a lesson to Justin Barricklow about banging the drums too hard, according to a report by the Missouri Department of Social Services. The agency investigated the case at the request of the boy's father, Scott Barricklow, who works as a groundskeeper for the Parkway district.
Scott Barricklow called the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about his son's case after reading a recent newspaper article about a Parkway bus driver who was fired for leaving a 5-year-old girl on a bus at the end of his shift. The girl was unhurt.
"They fired a guy who made an innocent mistake," Scott Barricklow said. "But Provencio is still teaching."
Justin Barricklow complained to his parents the night of the drumstick incident that his head hurt on both sides.
"When I asked him what's wrong with it, he said, 'Mr. Provencio made me hit myself in the head with the drumsticks,"' the father said.
The state agency's report quotes student witnesses as saying: "Mr. Provencio told Justin Barricklow to hit himself in the head with a set of soft mallets. ... Mr. Provencio then gave Justin a set of hard mallets and directed him to hit himself in the head as hard as he could. ... Mr. Provencio asked Justin, 'How did that feel? That's how the drums felt."'
The mallets in question have round ends made of hard plastic.
Provencio, who has taught for 13 years, told investigators he was teaching the child how to treat the drums.
"Paul Provencio stated he encouraged Justin Barricklow to hit himself in the head as a 'teaching technique' used to address appropriate care for instruments," the report states. Provencio forced Justin to strike himself again later, in front of a substitute teacher who entered the room, according to the report.
Parkway spokesman Paul Tandy said Provencio is in his fifth year at Carman Trails and that his record had been clean until this incident.
"Regardless of the teacher's intentions, what happened was highly unprofessional and totally inappropriate," Tandy stated Thursday in an e-mail to the Post-Dispatch. "The teacher is remorseful for his mistake and has apologized to the student."
Tandy said the teacher was disciplined. He declined to give specifics, citing personnel rules, but said Provencio will not return to the district next school year because of the incident.
Tandy defended the district's decision not to immediately fire Provencio.
"This is a 13-year veteran teacher who, until this incident, has had a successful track record working with students and families at the school. He made a terrible mistake but did not intend to hurt the child."