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Former Tampa educator’s history of pulling students’ toes leading to questions

A Senate committee in Rhode Island is asking a schools superintendent why he hired a man who had been disciplined in Tampa for pulling kids’ toes as punishment.
Former King High School assistant principal Olayinka Alege was investigated for allegedly popping students' toe knuckles as a form of punishment for bad grades.
Former King High School assistant principal Olayinka Alege was investigated for allegedly popping students' toe knuckles as a form of punishment for bad grades. [ Handout ]
Published May 18
Updated May 18

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence Superintendent Harrison Peters said he was aware of a school administrator’s questionable behavior in Florida, told no one and hired the man anyway.

Peters said he knew Olayinka Alege was accused in 2009 of “popping” boys’ toes as a form of discipline as an employee of Hillsborough County Public School System, where Peters also once worked, the Providence Journal reported.

Five boys told Florida sheriff’s deputies that Alege “asked them on numerous occasions to take off a shoe and sock behind closed doors, and allow him to ‘pop’ their toes.”

Related: Former Tampa educator who pulled kids’ toes arrested in unwanted foot massage

The Providence Senate delegation requested a hearing to question what Peters knew and when he knew it.

Peters told members of the Senate Oversight Committee on Monday that he spoke with Alege after learning of the alleged behavior in Florida and he convinced Peters it would not happen again.

Peters said Alege was not disciplined by the district nor was he charged with any crimes.

In late April, Alege was charged with simple assault for allegedly massaging a boy’s feet at a Warwick gym. Alege pleaded not guilty to the assault charge last week and was placed on leave after Warwick authorities contacted Peters.

Joseph Solomon Jr., Alege’s attorney, said last week that “the allegations are not what they appear to be.”

“When it became clear to me that he was not someone who should continue to work at Providence Public Schools, the commissioner and I requested his resignation, and he complied,” Peters said.

In his testimony, Peters admitted he was wrong to have hired Alege.

Sen. Jessica de la Cruz, R-Burrillville, called for Peters to resign.

Harrison Peters, the superintendent of Providence Public Schools,
Harrison Peters, the superintendent of Providence Public Schools, [ SANDOR BODO/THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL | Providence Journal ]