School Climate & Safety

Video of Teacher Dragging Special Education Student Roils Mississippi District

By Christina A. Samuels — October 21, 2016 2 min read
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A Mississippi teacher has been fired, the district superintendent has been placed on paid administrative leave, and state investigators are trying to determine whether the fired educator should lose her teaching license after video of the teacher dragging a student by the hair surfaced on Facebook earlier this month.

The student has been identified only as Taylor in news reports, which also say that she has “special needs” and is attending high school in the 5,800-student Greenville, Miss. district. The teacher, Linda Winters-Johnson, was fired by the district Oct. 17, according to the Delta Democrat-Times newspaper.

The three-minute video shows two incidents that took place in Greenville High School’s gymnasium. In the first interaction, the student appears to reach for a metal thermos. Winters-Johnson takes the object from the student and pushes her in the forehead with it.

Later, the video shows the girl lying on the floor with the teacher holding her down by her hair, while another student appears to taunt the girl. When the teacher lets go briefly and the girl reaches for the gymnasium door, the teacher pulls her away and drags her a few feet by her pony tail. The video has garnered millions of views on different social media outlets. Watch the video below:

The videos first started circulating earlier this month, but they are believed to have been recorded in late September. The district’s school board voted to place Superintendent Leeson Taylor II on leave while the investigations continue. He has served as superintendent since 2012.

Velvett Anderson, a parent interviewed by the Delta Democrat-Times, said after the teacher’s dismissal, “I think this is the step in the right direction.” But Anderson also told the newspaper: “I think there needs to be many more steps made. I think the whole system needs to be looked at. We are expecting some changes, but we aren’t expecting kids to be put in danger. This is the tip of the iceberg, so let’s keep digging.”

School board president Loretta Shannon has said that the district is also starting its own investigation. “We want to ensure we that we have a complete picture and an unbiased assessment of what occurred before we take action. But the board is taking this matter very seriously,” Shannon told the local newspaper.

The Southern Poverty Law Center also issued a statement after the videos started circulating saying that such acts traumatize children and contribute to an overall negative school environment. “In this case, the videos show that while other students and staff were present, no one intervened to stop the abuse. This is indicative of a school environment in which violence is normalized,” the group said.

State investigators have scheduled a hearing for Nov. 4 on whether to revoke Winters-Johnson’s teaching license.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.