In a recent article, a Texas teacher has been arrested for her involvement in a classroom fight. It looks like the teacher is the perpetrator of the classroom battle which continues to fuel much controversy in our schools. Teachers must ensure that their responses to objectionable students does not result in criminal charges for the teacher which are the result of a classroom fight between the teacher and student.

According to the article, Texas Teacher Arrested After Video Show Her Slapping Student: Police, a Texas teacher was arrested for slapping a student during an instructional period. Mary Hastings who is a teacher at Ozen High School in Beaumont Texas has been arrested for slapping a student five times. After slapping the student, she called the student an “idiot ass”, according to the article. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office reported that the teacher was arrested on one charge of assault and released on bail. Sources have reported that the teacher responded in this manner to ensure that another student’s progress towards graduation was not stifled.

Could the teacher induced classroom fight be a result of the laws governing teachers in Texas?

In Texas, the teacher is considered a public servant. According to Texas Penal Code §12.32 assaulting a public servant results in the following:

This type of legislation can provide teachers with power that is beyond their authority. This circumstance could have been avoided if there was a balance between the expectations for teachers and students.

The teacher was arrested for assault. A simple assault in Texas includes:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person
  • Intentionally or knowingly threatening another person with imminent bodily injury, or
  • Intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another that the offender knows or reasonably should know the victim will find provocative or offensive.

A person convicted of a misdemeanor in Texas faces the following possible penalties:

  • Class A misdemeanor – up to one year in jail or a fine up to $4000, or both
  • Class B misdemeanor – up to 180 days in jail or a fine up to $2000, or both, and
  • Class C misdemeanor – a fine up to $500.

(Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 12.21, 12.22, 12.23).

A person convicted of a third degree felony can be sentenced to two to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 (Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.34). The teacher will probably receive a penalty consistent with a Class C misdemeanor. We know that if the tables were turned, the consequences for the student would have been much harsher.

Teachers must understand that classroom disruptions are a product of the conflict between the student and the teacher which can cause classroom fights. The number one reason for classroom disruptions is talking. Not every behavior of a Black student should be classified as a classroom disruption.

Black students have classroom talking behaviors that result from interest in the instructional process. Black students are inclined to talk back when motivated by what a teacher says. Black students may become so impressed with the speaker, such as a teacher, that the students want to hear what the teacher says again due to an interest not in what was said but how it was said. Furthermore, Black students want to create the appropriate mood and setting before beginning to work on a task by asking the teacher to repeat the directions.

Many teachers do not expect Black students to interrupt the class by talking to their neighbors and speak without raising their hands. Educators assume quiet students are successful and receive rewards for making teaching an easier task. Black students will continue to carry their own culture into the classroom, and they will continue to misunderstand their middle-class teacher as profoundly as she or he misunderstands them.

Teachers respond to students talking in the classroom without permission by ordering, reprimanding, involving students in work, and naming the student. Some teachers may exhibit unprofessional behavior when students talk in the classroom without permission. When a teacher yells, uses harsh words, shames, degrades, or embarrasses a student, such behavior influences all students. Teachers can avoid classroom fights by becoming culturally aware of the verbal and non-verbal habits of their students.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

www.positiveracialrelationships.com

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