Remarks result in Oklahoma DHS worker’s dismissal

BY NOLAN CLAY Modified: October 27, 2008 at 2:19 pm •  Published: October 26, 2008
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©Copyright 2008, The Oklahoman

A longtime Department of Human Services worker was fired from the state-run children’s shelter in Tulsa this year after allegedly saying in January she "would knock the children in their necks and put them in the closet,” records show.

Rochelle O. Knight, 50, also pointed her hand like a gun and told several employees she was "going to have to hurt someone on the job if they keep making things difficult,” according to her termination letter.

Dozens of DHS workers are fired or suspended each year.

The Oklahoman reviews DHS disciplinary records periodically in an ongoing look at the controversial state welfare agency.

Knight worked at the Laura Dester Shelter for abused and neglected children in Tulsa. She was fired March 24.

What happened?
She also talked of killing a supervisor "if she had to” and said she couldn’t carry a small purse because her ".38 won’t fit in it,” according to the records.

She also talked of shooting an acquaintance’s truck full of holes, according to the records. She was disciplined before — the last time in 2006 for cursing loudly in front of sleeping residents.

"Those were all lies,” Knight said of the reasons given for her firing.

"I never threatened to hurt the children. ... I was there for 10 years. If I was a hostile employee, they would have fired me a long time ago.”

She said she did make a joke about a gun and her purse. But, she said, "I don’t even own a .38.”

She blamed a supervisor for her firing, saying he harassed her for years.

A DHS hearing officer reported, "The evidence supporting the charges against Ms. Knight is overwhelming.”

The hearing officer specifically found "reasonable grounds exist” to believe Knight made the comments about the children and in a tone that made another worker concerned and fearful.

DHS spokesman George Johnson said the agency works daily to have its 8,000 employees follow both the letter and spirit of state law.


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