School Climate & Safety

Teacher Retires After Slapping Student

By Dakarai I. Aarons — August 28, 2009 1 min read

An attempt to handle a fight went awry in a Tennessee classroom.

A teacher in the Jackson-Madison County, Tenn. school district retired this week in the wake of the Aug. 10 incident in which she slapped a ninth-grader in the face.

The incident occurred when the teacher, Martha Kelley, who had been an educator for more than 40 years, attempted to break up horseplay between two students that had escalated to a fight. One of the students swore at her. Kelley told district investigators she hadn’t intended to slap the student.

I've been teaching for 46 years, and I've never hit a kid," Kelley wrote in her statement. "I had no intention of touching the boy."

The district, which had given her a three-day unpaid suspension for the incident, said in its report that the slap “was committed with no malice or forethought and occurred as an involuntary reaction to the vulgar language used by the student.”

What makes this story even more interesting is the response from the mother, who tells the Jackson Sun she’s disappointed to see the teacher go.

Holley Staples, the mother of the ninth-grader, on Wednesday said she hated to see Kelley retire.

I don't know if it was spurred by the incident, but I wish her the best and I'm not holding any malice whatsoever toward her," Staples said. "I'm on both sides. I'm backing up my son, and I agree with the school's discipline. I didn't want her to quit or be fired. It was a mistake, and everybody makes them."

The young man involved in the incident, however, isn’t getting a free pass from Mom.

From the Sun: Both of the male students involved in the incident were disciplined by the school. Staples said her son received corporal punishment at home and extra farming duties.

“He’s going to be busy for at least the next two months,” she said.

I bet this high-schooler just loves that his mom told a newspaper about his spanking.

Handling unruly students can be a real issue for teachers, especially at the secondary level where the kids may be larger than the teacher. What kind of guidance does your district give teachers for handling student discipline?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.