Principal charged after death threats uttered
Published Tuesday, April 7, 2009 3:19PM EDT
Police have charged the sister of Toronto's deputy mayor after a weekend incident in which children were allegedly threatened with death.
Maria Pantalone, also a Toronto elementary school principal, is now "on paid leave," according to a spokesperson at the Toronto District School board on Tuesday. Pantalone is facing three counts of threatening death after the Saturday incident at her west-end home.
Police sources told CTV Toronto that no one was injured in the incident and that no weapons were involved.
Grant Bowers, counsel for the TDSB, said the children involved in the incident are not students at her school and that the occurrence "has nothing to do with her relationships as a school principal."
Bowers said he will be meeting with Pantalone and her lawyers later this afternoon to discuss her version of the events that unfolded.
He said that typically, when a TDSB employee has been charged with a criminal offence, that person is put on home assignment with pay until the charges are resolved either through a trial or through a dismissal of the case.
If a staff member were to be convicted of a serious crime, then their employment may be terminated, depending on the circumstances. The TDSB could also launch its own investigation into the incident.
It's not the first time the 51-year-old has been in trouble with the law.
In 2006, Pantalone was arrested after she threw feces at a child in an effort to discipline the 11-year-old. The child was not a student at her school and the incident happened away from school grounds.
She later pleaded guilty to assault.
The TDSB and the Ontario College of Teachers did not take disciplinary action against Pantalone at the time.
Pantalone 'incredibly respectful'
A parent at Ossington Old Orchard Jr. Public School, told ctvtoronto.ca that she saw Pantalone working at the school Monday morning. However, she said she received a note that afternoon informing her that Pantalone had gone on leave for personal reasons.
It wasn't until Tuesday afternoon that she found out about the allegations, said Shirley Darling.
Darling said she has been in contact with dozens of parents who are all upset about Pantalone's departure. The parent volunteer said she is drafting a petition that will aim to get Pantalone reinstated as the school's principal.
"We won't give up until we have her back," Darling said.
Darling said she has always seen Pantalone be "calm, cool and incredibly respectful" when dealing with children and their parents. She said the allegations are a surprise and that "they don't reflect her character."
Since Pantalone began working at the school last September, the students have access to a number of new clubs and after-school programs -- something they never enjoyed before, according to Darling.
"It's all because of her," she said. "She's a powerful mover and shaker."
Pantalone, the sister of Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, appeared in court on Sunday and was released on bail. She is expected back in court later this month.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Jim Junkin