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Video shows Xenia gym teacher assaulting 7-year-old student

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a Dayton Daily News investigation revealing that educators across Ohio are losing their professional licenses for misconduct at unprecedented numbers. The Daily News analyzed a database of thousands of educator misconduct files, and obtained records from schools, police departments, courts and the state, and reached out to ousted teachers and coaches. Some of the cases the newspaper found from districts across the Miami Valley have never previously been reported. Go here for the full report.

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A teacher at Tecumseh Elementary School in Xenia lost his teaching license permanently in January after he was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting a 7-year-old student. 

The April 12, 2017, incident was caught on camera and occurred with children close by. The video shows the child was seated on steps behind the gym teacher, Eric Salter, who was supervising the class. The boy appears to kick Salter, who responds by grabbing the child, shaking him and tossing him to the floor. 

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A statement from school principal Cathryn Petticrew — obtained from Salter’s personnel file — says Salter initially reported the incident the same day, saying a student kicked him and would be referred to the principal’s office. The next day, the principal hadn’t received the referral but got a call from a parent saying his child saw the teacher throw another first-grader to the ground.

After reviewing the video, Petticrew notified parents and called the Greene County Sheriff’s Office. Salter was immediately suspended.

Salter wrote a statement saying when the child kicked him, “I reached around, grabbed him by his shirt and told him that he should not have kicked an adult (teacher). He leaned back away from me. I released him and he laid on the floor until his teacher came to pick up the class.”

The child’s parents reported that the boy had a large hand print on his chest area.

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The incident was reported to the Ohio Department of Education Office of Professional Conduct on April 19, 2017.

Salter wrote a letter of resignation on July 4, 2017, effective in August of that year.

“I sincerely appreciate the opportunities and support provided to me during my 31 years teaching elementary level students, and I am pleased with the positive impact and contributions that I have given to assist students’ learning and development,” he wrote.

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Greene County Prosecutor Stephen Haller in October denied felony charges, writing that though the child did have bruises as a result of being grabbed and pushed to the floor, the injury suffered didn’t rise to the level of felony assault.

Salter was charged with misdemeanor assault in November 2017, and he surrendered his teaching license that same month. He pleaded guilty to the criminal charge and was sentenced in January to 60 days in jail. The Ohio Board of Education also permanently revoked Salter’s license in January, after he declined to participate in the state’s investigation.

Salter did not return calls seeking comment.

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Court records show his attorney defended his client’s actions, saying he had just been diagnosed with diabetes and had not yet learned how to control his blood sugar, which can lead to mood swings. Letters of support for Salter to the court came from area pastors and from former Xenia mayor Marsha Bayless, who called him “a good man.”

A court filing arguing for leniency in sentencing further argues that his untreated diabetes caused him to act out of character. After the filing the judge reduced Salter’s sentence; it was originally 90 days. 

It includes testimony from Salter’s wife: “I can tell you I was shocked by what I saw (the video) and understand your (the court’s) reaction,” she wrote. “I felt that I was looking at another person in the video that was not my husband. My husband is a person that has always shown compassion for others, is patient, level-headed, not quick to anger.”

RELATED: Xenia school employee on leave; police probe sex complaint

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