Charges reduced in Nebraska City life skills scandal
NEBRASKA CITY – The Otoe County Attorney’s Office has reduced charges against a Nebraska City life skills teacher accused of mistreating a student.
The amended charge alleges that Melissa Valenta, 50, was negligent because of the situation the student was placed in, as opposed to an initial charge alleging intentional child abuse against the 17-year-old student.
The county attorney earlier dropped charges against two para-educators assigned to the life skills class.
The charges were brought against the teacher after the student brought a tape recorder to a gym class.
Otoe County Attorney Jennifer Panko Rahe says, after the student was excused from the class activity, balls were still thrown in the student’s direction, allegedly prompting Valenta to tell the student to get up because he was an easy target.
The court sealed the student’s individual education plan, as well as progress reports from the school, which might provide insight into the plan for the student in PE class despite his known heart condition.
Defense Attorney William Bianco said the audio recording does not incriminate the teacher, but should not be admissible at trial because it can not be authenticated.
The life skills scandal came at a time when Nebraska City Public Schools was challenged by staffing.
At its Oct. 10 meeting, school board member Kent Blum said hiring of a full-time special education position will help fill a need in the special education department created by the inability to fill seven open special education para positions.
The student’s mother, Jennifer Egri, was told that the life skills program might be terminated because of staffing shortages, but was informed in January that her child could return to class.
Valenta resigned after nearly 30 years prior to a Nov. 14 school board meeting.