Thousands sign petition to help save Pawtucket teacher’s job after arrest

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WLNE): A parent started a petition, which thousands have signed, to help save a Pawtucket teacher’s job after he was arrested over the weekend. However, not everyone is agrees with the cause.

Derrick Garforth, 34, was charged over the weekend following vandalism at the Christopher Columbus statue on Elmwood Avenue. According to Police, Garforth with the help of 2 others, splattered paint towards the statue, which had already been boarded and fenced off out of precaution. Garforth was charged with desecration of grave/monument, which is a felony.

Garforth teaches social studies at Joseph Jenks Junior High School. He’s since been put on leave while the school department investigates, which is why Ted Panagiotis started the petition.

“Someone had shared the story from ABC6 and I was like, ‘I think that’s the teacher Amir said is his favorite,'” Panagiotis said.

His son, Amir Panagiotis, is one of Garforth’s students, and Amir says Garforth is much more than a teacher to him.

“He wasn’t just teaching us stuff,” Amir said. “He was devoted to making us not just good citizens but great men and women.”

The online petition has more than 4,000 signatures. Panagiotis said Garforth is one of the few teachers who has stuck around for their students.

“He’s had teachers that have left midway through the school year, and then he has a substitute for half the school year, so that means it’s a difficult environment for a teacher to be in,” Panagiotis said.

However, not everyone agrees that the school should allow Garforth back.

“It doesn’t matter if the statue is right or wrong, it’s a felony crime and someone in his position, especially in middle school shaping those young minds, it just doesn’t set a good example,” said Jacob Lenahan, a custodian with the Pawtucket School Department

Pawtucket School Department Superintendent Dr. Cheryl McWilliams said the investigation is on-going in response to a question as to whether the petition would have an effect on Garforth’s future as a teacher in the city.

A spokesperson for the Providence Police Department said she was not sure when Garforth’s next court date is scheduled.

©WLNE-TV/ABC 6 2020


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