He’s one in a “Melion”

He's one in a

Lindsey Cohen, Editor-in-Chief

The Wantagh school board reinstated Mel Turner, the middle school’s beloved autistic custodian, after much rallying and debating, September 21. For over a month, his pay was suspended. After completing a required psychological evaluation, as of November 26, he will continue as custodian.

Hundreds of Wantagh students, parents, and alumni rallied for Turner, 45, at the Board of Education meeting, September 13, after he’d been fired and banned from school property following a highly controversial summer incident with students.

Turner had lost his job after he was taunted and cursed out by students in July. A small minority of Wantagh students, tragically, have bullied Turner in this manner for decades. On his walk home from this incident, he encountered another group of teens and was driven to an emotional outburst. The students caught his reaction on audiotape and brought it to the attention of district officials. Those who know Turner (every resident in the community) understand that he would never harm anyone. But school district officials said it was their responsibility to keep everyone safe. Even if the threat were provoked, the district officials believed they had to fire Tuner from his custodial job.

At first, Turner was not only fired but he was also banned from attending any school events including all sporting events and Homecoming. But after many powerful speeches made by those in the community, Turner was granted the right to attend Wantagh events.

“I was amazed to see how much passion the community put forth as they came together in support of Mel,” said senior and president of The General Organization Club, Anthony Falco.

An IndieGoGo fundraising account, with the title “Help Support Mel,” was created and immediately put into action after the BOE meeting. So far, almost $6,500 has been raised out of the $20,000 goal.

WHS Principal Mrs. Breivogel and Assistant Principal Mr. Brown, while not directly Turner’s bosses, both agree that if Turner had come to the district explaining that he was teased, disciplinary actions would have been taken immediately, but he didn’t. They also said that if this occurred on school grounds, the outcome would be different.

“We love Mel,” said Mrs. Breivogel. “He’s a great guy. But someone with his disabilities should have a support system aside from the help he gets from the community.”

“I’m just glad,” said Turner. “I’m glad to be back.”