Last Friday, La Cienega Fire Department (Santa Fe County. NM) firefighter Samantha Nottke was with another firefighter talking to students at Santo Nino Regional Catholic School about fire safety and prevention. After meeting with the 4th to 6th graders the firefighter noticed her wallet was gone. Apparently in her mind that meant the kids must have taken it.
After telling school officials of her concern, principal Teri Vaisa brought the kid to the cafeteria for a meeting with the firefighter. According to reporter Alex Goldsmith at KRQE-TV, Nottke, who also works at the county jail, became upset when a few kids giggled during the meeting:
“[She] started yelling at our kids, telling them they’re stealing from taxpayers,” said 4th grade parent Amy Ortiz. “That she keeps thieves like them locked up.”
An official fire department memo cites the comment as: “We lock up bad kids!”
But the wallet wasn’t with the kids or even at the school. A couple of hours later it was found back at the fire station.
Chief (James) Valencia says Nottke was absolutely out of line and fired her on Friday, but has since lessened the punishment and allowed her to re-apply after six months. Both Nottke and Valencia apologized in person and with letters distributed to parents.
“I am sorry for what we have done,” Valencia said. “Not only for the firefighter but myself because I’m her leader.”
Parents are upset with both the firefighter and the principal for allowing this to happen.
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