PALM BAY, Fla. – A “highly effective” third-grade teacher at Palm Bay’s Columbia Elementary School was fired Tuesday, more than a year after she bit a child on his back during an altercation.
The Brevard County School Board fired teacher Karen Williams without discussion at a meeting Tuesday night, well over a year after officials placed her on paid leave in December 2015.
A special needs student told Palm Bay Police at the time that Williams put him in a “bear hug” and he bit her on her right hand in an attempt to free himself. He said his teacher then chomped down on his back “for like a minute,” which prompted him to bite her hand again, Florida Today reports.
A front office worker told police she heard the boy “screaming hysterically” over the phone and found him crying with a red bite mark on his back when she responded to Williams’ classroom.
Police examined an adult-sized bite mark on the child’s left shoulder blade and heard from students who said their classmate yelled “my back, my back” as Williams bear-hugged the child, but did not see her actually bite him, according to the news site.
Williams – who was regularly rated as “highly effective” in her annual evaluations – denied the allegations, but police arrested her on Dec. 10, 2015 and she eventually found guilty on Jan. 27, 2017 of culpable negligence that inflicts injury, a first-=degree misdemeanor.
Her sentence for the crime is unclear.
Perhaps not surprising, third-grade reading scores at Columbia Elementary are among the worst in the school district. Florida Department of Education data for 2016 shows a mere 29 percent of third-graders scored proficient or better on the Florida Standards Assessment, the Brevard Times reported last year.
The statewide average was 54 percent.
Locals who commented online were left with a lot of questions.
“Admin leave for … 2 years?” Tina Williamson posted to Facebook.
“So she was getting paid this whole time?” Dorothy Mancini wrote.
“Omg wtf!” Toya Davis added. “This was my daughter’s teacher!”
“How did she fricking become a teacher?!” Liz Bombardier questioned.
“Took this long to fire her?” Nadia Lestrange posted.
According to Florida Today:
Under a professional service contract, as opposed to the annual contracts that are used now, teachers can only be dismissed for unsatisfactory evaluations, gross insubordination, willful neglect of duties or conviction of a moral crime.