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Teacher arrested for using drugs in front of 4th grade class

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Map of Niagara County, New York, highlighting the location of Lewiston, New York (in red).

Joan M. Donatelli, 59, a substitute teacher was arrested after two female students, a 10 year-old and a 9 year-old, in her 4th grade class at Lew-Port school in Lewiston, New York witnessed her using cocaine at her desk on February 1, 2007.

According to Lewiston police Sgt. Frank J. Previte, at least two students saw Donatelli use the end of at least two pen caps to "repeatedly" scoop cocaine out of the green colored bag and inhale the drug into her nose, while she was teaching the class. The students were sitting no less than five feet from the teacher's desk at the time of the incident.

The children who reported the incident are being called "credible."

"First of all their candor, their account of everything in stating what they saw. They were very specific about the color of the bag, the color of the pencaps that were used, which all again, we were able to back up," added Previte.

Previte also stated that Donatelli admitted to using the drug only after police searched the classroom and found trace amounts of cocaine on her desk. Donatelli then got rid of the evidence and drugs by throwing the items out in a trash bin inside a bathroom.

"She stated that she had a problem, that she has an addiction, something she's been struggling with," stated Previte.

The superintendent of Lewiston-Porter Central Schools, Don Rappold, sent a letter home to parents of the students saying:

"On Thursday, February 1, 2007, it was reported that a substitute teacher in your child's classroom may have a substance abuse problem. This letter is to inform you that the Lewiston-Porter School District responded to the report by advising the police. The matter is now under investigation, and the District is fully cooperating with the authorities. Pending the outcome of the investigation, the substitute teacher has been prohibited from being on our campus."

Donatelli is being charged with at least two counts of endangering the welfare of children and seventh-degree criminal possession of an illegal substance. She is expected to appear in the Lewiston Town Court on February 21, 2007. More counts of endangering the welfare of children may be added, but only after police can confirm that other students in the class witnessed the incident.

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