Galt school administrator seeks to restore reputation, job

Published: Friday, May. 31, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, May. 31, 2013 - 6:34 am

Robert Rappleye Jr. wants two things: his reputation restored and to return to Galt High School as its assistant principal.

He stands a better chance at both after a Calaveras Superior Court judge dismissed assault charges against him last week.

Rappleye, 62, was arrested July 13 after an altercation at Greenhorn Creek Golf Resort in Angels Camp. Police said he injured another man by swinging a golf club at him.

The case was heavily publicized, with the story – often accompanied by police mug shots of the Elk Grove resident – in newspapers and on television.

But Rappleye feels exonerated. A May 23 court order says the case was "dismissed in the interest of justice." Assistant District Attorney Brad Jones was not available for comment.

Rappleye said the order came after his attorney asked the court to dismiss the case, saying his client was defending himself when he injured the other man.

"Once you get in the system, the wheels grind very slowly," said Rappleye, who stayed home on paid administrative leave for more than 10 months while he waited for a resolution.

Angels Camp police said at the time that Rappleye became frustrated at the slow pace of a group of golfers playing ahead on the 18th hole. He reportedly directed foul language at a woman in the group.

The resulting argument between Rappleye and the woman's husband turned violent, police said. Rappleye reportedly swung a golf club at the man, hitting him twice. He was arrested and booked into the Calaveras County jail.

"To get arrested was very shocking to me," Rappleye said Thursday.

He disagrees with much of the police account, saying it was the other group of golfers that confronted him and a friend.

He said the group was behind them, not in front, and apparently thought Rappleye's party skipped ahead of them or otherwise had slighted them.

"There was no way I cussed," he said. "He got angry, bumped me with his chest and shoved me."

Rappleye said he swung the club only because the man kept coming after him, despite his efforts to retreat. "I knew I did not want to fight, and it seemed like there was no way to get out of it," he said.

Rappleye said he assumed it would take only a few weeks to resolve the issue, particularly after the other party in the conflict – who wasn't arrested – told officers and later the court, according to Rappleye, that he also was at fault and that the case shouldn't be pursued.

Now Rappleye is hoping to return to his job as vice principal at the school where he has worked for the last 29 years – 10 years as an assistant principal and 20 years as a math teacher.

"I want to go back to Galt High," he said. "That's what I love doing. I love the school and I love the kids."

But the decision is up to district officials, who have approached him about job as a math teacher at Liberty Ranch High School, which would mean a substantial reduction in pay.

"I'd like to go back to where I was when this all happened," he said. "Anything short of that still makes it look like I've done something wrong."

He said Galt Union High School Superintendent Matthew Roberts asked him earlier this week to write a letter explaining why he should return to his previous position.

Roberts told The Bee that he expects Rappleye will return to the district soon, although he isn't certain yet whether he will return to his old job at Galt High School.

He calls Rappleye "a faithful administrator and teacher" who is "very respected" among his colleagues and in the community.

Rappleye says he's confident the district will do the right thing.

So what will he tell students about his experience?

"If you can, just don't engage angry people," he said. "You still have to defend yourself, but if you can avoid the engagement to begin with, that's the best alternative."

Call The Bee's Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert. Read her Report Card blog at http://blogs.sacbee.com/report-card/.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Diana Lambert



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