From inside a bathroom at Selby Lane School, a distraught 13-year-old girl calls and tells a 911 dispatcher Tuesday that her math teacher has just knocked over a desk and screamed epithets at students, an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The Daily News reveals.
Fighting back tears at one point during the roughly 11½-minute exchange, the girl admits that "I'm scared."
"I know you're scared," the dispatcher responds, trying to calm her down. "But think happy thoughts."
The girl explains that the teacher became angry because students didn't know the answers to certain problems. She says she borrowed a friend's cell phone and left to make the call.
However, when officers arrived at teacher John Haynes' Atherton classroom around 2:30 p.m., they found the scene calm, according to police.
Officers determined Haynes hadn't thrown anything, but that when he raised a desk a few inches off the ground and dropped it to get the students' attention, it landed on its side, Atherton police Lt. Joe Wade said Wednesday. They also learned the teacher had raised his voice and used profanity, Wade said.
Haynes did not return an e-mail for comment sent to his school address Wednesday.
As first reported by The Daily News, the Redwood City School District placed Haynes on paid administrative leave Tuesday pending an investigation into the incident. The district emphasized Wednesday the leave is not a disciplinary action.
"Administrative leave is a procedure that is used to protect the rights of both teachers and students; it ensures that facts are determined before any conclusions are reached," the district said in a written statement. "Administrative leave allows time for a full assessment of the situation; input is gathered from students, teachers and anyone involved in the situation."
The district took over the investigation when police determined a crime had not occurred.
"We firmly support the right of teachers to be treated fairly; we also take our responsibility to protect students extremely seriously," the statement said.
District Superintendent Jan Christensen said she hopes to complete the investigation in the next couple days and it would be premature to discuss specifics now. Haynes is an "excellent teacher," she noted.
Ruby Prado, who told The Daily News she is the mother of the girl who loaned the 13-year-old student her cell phone, said she would be surprised to learn Haynes had used profanity.
"My daughter is an honor roll student and I would say it's partly -- mostly -- because of him," Prado said. "He's a very good teacher. He's committed."
She said her daughter hadn't mentioned that Haynes used any swear words and is concerned her teacher might now be in trouble.
"I honestly think that this whole thing has nothing to do with my daughter or any of the kids," Prado said. "It just sounds like the whole thing has gotten blown out of proportion."
District Trustee Dennis McBride said Wednesday he couldn't discuss personnel matters, but acknowledged that the 911 call gave him pause.
"When you listen to the call, you have a concern regardless," he said. "You don't want any student to feel in fear."
E-mail Jesse Dungan at firstname.lastname@example.org.