WOODSTOCK, Ga. — A former school counselor accused of insulting students at a local middle school said the allegations left her feeling like she was sucker punched.
Dede Manzella spoke with Channel 2's Nefertiti Jaquez Monday afternoon and broke her silence about what happened at Woodstock Middle School.
Manzella said she was trying to stop a cyberbullying situation.
Manzella, who’s worked for the Cherokee County School District for 20 years, said she was doing her job to protect the students.
She even said that at first, the principal actually thanked her for how she handled the situation, before parents started to complain.
Many concerned parents told Channel 2 Action News the woman walked in while students were half-dressed and said she used obscene language to describe their daughters.
“When I first heard your story, it was like being sucker punched, I would say, because I hadn’t heard some of those allegations,” Manzella told Jaquez.
Manzella said she was trying to stop a fight between a group of sixth-grade girls when she walked into a locker room to speak to them on Aug. 20.
Manzella said the children were clothed and said the words she used were to demonstrate that such language would not be tolerated after she noted the girls were using the graphic language while bullying each other online.
“It’s not possible that anyone here is a (expletive). You guys are 11. Right, like anybody,” she said before raising her hand. “So it wasn’t like it was, ‘Raise your hand if you are.’ You know?”
Once parents started complaining about the incident, an investigation was launched.
During that time, Manzella was assigned to work at a warehouse for a month, with no updates on her situation.
On Sept. 27, Channel 2 Action News contacted the school district for comment.
The next day, they got back to us and confirmed she had been removed from the school. That same day, the principal sent parents an email informing them that they were looking for a permanent replacement.
"Yes, I felt like they were using me as a scapegoat to appease the parents," Manzella said.
Manzella said as a mother, she understands their concerns and would have wanted to talk to the parents face to face about what happened.
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