Parents want accused Woodhaven teacher rehired

WOODHAVEN, Mich. – Prosecutors dropped their charge against John Guthrie which accused him of inappropriately touching a 4-year-old girl at Wegienka Elementary School.

However, the Woodhaven-Brownstown School District's board fired him anyway.

One of Gray Johnson's boys would have had Guthrie as a teacher this fall. The other was in his kindergarten class two years ago. Johnson says Guthrie was open about the fact that he would rub his students' backs at naptime.

"They're 4 and 5-year-olds. They need comforting when they're away from their parents for the first time all day," said Johnson.

Woodhaven-Brownstown Superintendent Mark Greathead said Guthrie would rub the backs of 15 of his students daily.

"Our teachers are caring and compassionate. This was a matter of being excessive," Greathead told Local 4.

Johnson is organizing an online petition drive pushing for Guthrie to be rehired.

"It was discrimination because if it was a female teacher doing that, nothing would have ever been said," she said.

School board members voted unanimously to fire him after Guthrie told them he had done nothing wrong.

"He asked, 'OK, how about I change my policy a little bit? Work with me.' Uh-uh, they didn't want anything to do with it," said Joyce Lightbody, whose granddaughter was in Guthrie's class.

"He was wrongfully accused and that came out, and he was still let go for something else. Well, to me that doesn't make any sense," said Jason Able, whose son was in Guthrie's class.

The superintendent said Guthrie was warned about the back rubbing last year. Guthrie denies that.

"It's career-ending for him, and it's heartbreaking for him. It's devastating," said Johnson.

The online petition will be presented to the school board at its next meeting. A more important factor in Guthrie's future may be whatever help the teachers union gives him. So far, the Michigan Education Association is not discussing its next move.