NEWARK, OH (WCMH) — Denver Ham gripped his daughter Riley’s shoulders tight in a protective hug outside Legend Elementary School in Newark.

“I couldn’t lose another child,” Ham said, choking back tears.

Riley, 7, told her family she had a “bad day” at school on Wednesday. The second-grader said a substitute teacher who called himself “Mr. S.” threatened her class.


“He doesn’t deal with bad behavior and said if we act up or do anything that he didn’t tell us, that he would cut our heads off and bury us,” Riley said.

Denver Ham, who said his oldest daughter died in 2013 in a car accident on the way to school, said he was horrified by the comments.

“With the stuff going on in the media today with the school shootings and killings, there’s no room for even joking about that,” Ham said.

In a statement emailed to NBC4, a spokesperson for Newark City Schools wrote:

Newark City Schools learned this evening of allegations that a guest teacher made inappropriate comments to students. The comments were alarming and should not be said by any district employee to any student. The district is now investigating the comments, and the guest teacher will not work in the Newark City School District, pending the results of the investigation. The person is not a full-time employee of Newark City Schools.

We apologize to the students who heard the alarming phrase, and to their parents. We encourage students and parents to contact building principals or the district superintendent with any information related to student safety or other educational concerns.

Ham said hearing Riley’s story, which he said another classmate and his mother confirmed, made him scared for the safety of his children.

“It’s not what’s outside the school you have to worry about, it’s what’s inside,” Ham said. “And that’s the worst part.”