• Parents outraged over suspension of coach accused of making child stand in rain

    By: Lauren Pozen


    DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Parents are rallying behind a teacher they say is being targeted by the DeKalb County School District. 

    "We are hoping that we can get him back in the classroom," said Charles Hankla. 

    Hankla is a former student and now a parent of a child in Dr. James O’Donnell's P.E. class at Henderson Mill Elementary School.

    He told us his daughter was in class last month when 10-year-old Joe Austin accused O’Donnell of making him stand out in the rain with no jacket as a form of punishment after he did a dance move on the floor. 

    "The original accusation of Dr. OD making him stand out in the rain is not really what my daughter observed," said Hankla. 

    Austin’s mother reached out to Channel 2 Action News after the incident and we spoke with both her and her son. 


    "It was 41 degrees, it was pouring rain," said parent Tara Gilmore. 

    Austin added, "Everybody saw me like soaked."        

    Hankla said his daughter told him Austin refused to stop what she said was "spinning around on the floor" and was soaked because he didn't stay by the door under the awning as O'Donnell told him to. 

    "The student apparently disappeared and ran around in the rain and came back," said Hankla. 

    The DeKalb County School District told us O’Donnell is on paid administrative leave. 

    They sent Channel 2 Action News the following statement: 

    The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is committed to behaviors that provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students. The district does not discuss personnel matters and cannot speak directly to your questions about the individual you noted.

    However, the occurrence is being investigated and DCSD will take appropriate action based on its findings.

    Hankla said removing O'Donnell from the classroom is premature. 

    "This was an accusation only by one parent, I would have expected a more through examination," he said.  

    On Saturday, there will be a boot camp to support O'Donnell and his love of fitness and teaching children. 

    There is also a GoFundMe account set up to help pay for his living expenses and legal aid: 

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