Butler teacher suspended for racist remark had past ‘careless behavior’

HR director says Butler Tech teacher showed “a pattern of poor choices in judgment.”

The Butler County teacher accused of making a racist comment to a student has also been cited for other remarks, according to records exclusively obtained Tuesday by the Journal-News.

Butler Tech teacher Katherine Klimach is suspended and on paid administrative leave following her comment to a student at Fairfield High School.

The incident earlier this month was caught on a student’s mobile phone video obtained by the Journal-News’ partner WCPO TV.

On the video, Klimach, who was teaching a Butler Tech class on Family and Consumer Science at Fairfield High School, is heard telling a Chinese-American student: “We’re waiting for it to come on. You broke it already. What’s wrong with you? You Chinese are supposed to make computers, and you’re breaking them instead.”

Butler Tech officials said Klimach has expressed remorse for the statement.

“Butler Tech immediately took action upon hearing the serious nature of the complaints against this teacher. The teacher was placed on leave, pending investigation of the claims.

“As a result of the investigation, the teacher must complete cultural sensitivity training and was disciplined. The teacher has expressed remorse about the situation and is actively working on a course of self-improvement,” said officials.

Klimach, a veteran teacher who has worked for public school districts in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky since the late 1990s, could not be reached for comment.

According to personnel documents obtained from Butler Tech through a Journal-News’ public records request, Klimach was also cited for other comments toward her students.

In an Oct. 14 letter to Klimach from Butler Tech Executive Director of Human Resources Marni Durham, Butler Tech officials stated the teacher was accused of telling a minority teen who asked a question without raising their hand: “That’s not how we do things in our country.”

Durham also wrote that Klimach was cited as stating to a student: “I have to pay attention more to the kids that are slow in the classroom, and I know you noticed that (student’s name).”

Durham wrote that Klimach: denied making the comment; said the student was bright; and said, according to Durham’s report, “third bell was a difficult class for you.”

“You (Klimach) went on to share that ‘(student’s name) is sensitive about race,’” wrote Durham.

Durham also asked Klimach about student allegations the teacher had “set up two different groups of tables and stated ‘this table is for the bad students and this ones(sic) for the students that want to learn.’”

“You (Klimach) responded by stating you have never done that before,” wrote Durham.

Klimach, who was hired by Butler Tech in 2015 and earns $76,783 annually, was found to be in violation of Butler Tech’s job requirements to “create a safe environment that is conducive to learning and appropriate to the mature level of students.”

Moreover, Durham stated Klimach also violated Butler Tech’s requirements to “assume responsibility for overall classroom management” and “to promote positive work habits.”

“Your actions to address students in any way in regards to race or lack of intelligence or motivation constitutes a poor choice in judgment, careless behavior and an apparent disregard for the policies and procedures that are intended to promote professionalism,” wrote Durham.

“Because of your poor choice in judgment in this situation and due to exhibiting a pattern of poor choices in judgment, I write this letter as a formal disciplinary letter. Any future inappropriate actions could result in the termination of your contract,” wrote Durham.

Klimach was ordered to attend “culturally responsive training” and ordered to read an article titled “Culturally Responsive Teaching Matters.”

The teacher was also directed to write at least one page on her reflections by Oct. 21 “on what you have learned and how you will apply your findings to your current teaching position in order to improve your practice.”

Butler Tech is the career school system serving Fairfield and nine other Butler County school systems.

Fairfield School officials, who are currently in litigation for allegedly allowing the bullying of another student – Emilie Olsen – who later committed suicide, said Tuesday they have requested Butler Tech officials not return Klimach to Fairfield High School or any other school in their district.

Olsen’s parents filed a lawsuit against Fairfield Schools in 2015 in the wake of their adopted daughter’s death.

Fairfield school officials have denied there was any connection between student bullying of Olsen and her suicide, and they have declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Fairfield officials stressed that Klimach is an employee of Butler Tech and not of Fairfield Schools.

“The administration at Fairfield City Schools and Butler Tech were very disturbed when we became knowledgeable about the incident in question,” Fairfield officials wrote in a prepared statement.

“Once building administrators at Fairfield High School were made aware of the incident, they immediately contacted the administration at Butler Tech so that the matter could be investigated and addressed. The teacher in question was immediately placed on administrative leave and has not returned to the classroom.

“The Fairfield City School District has made a request to Butler Tech that the staff member not return to Fairfield City Schools. The matter is currently under investigation by Butler Tech officials. We do have an outstanding relationship with Butler Tech, and we are confident that they are giving this matter the attention that it deserves.”

This story includes reporting by our news partner WCPO 9 On Your Side.

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