LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Rutherford Elementary School teacher is out of a job after a district investigation substantiated reports she hit a kindergartner, and held the student while another kicked him.
Teacher Theresa Mason was initially suspended for 10 days without pay over a May 5 incident involving several students and a teacher’s aide in her classroom. A Jefferson County Public Schools investigation found the student was verbally and physical aggressive and hit Mason on her arm and the teacher’s aide in the face.
The aide wrote in a statement that Mason grabbed the student, who had also struck his classmates, “by the back of his collar and held him on his tip toes while he grabbed at his neck and told (the other student) to kick him back,” and the retaliating student did as he was told, WDRB reports.
The abusive student reportedly called his mother after the incident and told her “Ms. Mason choked me,” the aide told investigators.
Mason denied ever striking the student, but issued a statement that said she “did hold him in a choke hold and tell another kid to kick him.
“I may have grabbed the back of his shirt as he was running around the classroom taunting other students,” Mason wrote, according to the news site. “I would never hurt a child.”
Mason’s Sept. 15 termination letter tells a different story.
“On August 26, 2016, you attended a due process meeting with your principal and your JCTA representative to discuss our conduct on May 5, 2016 and a substantiated investigative report arising therefrom,” the letter states.
“Specifically, the investigation substantiated that you hit a student on his arm and that after the student kicked another student, you held him by the shirt and allowed the other student to kick him back,” it continued. “The report contained a signed statement by you that stated you ‘did hold him in a choke hold and tell another kid to kick him.”
The letter also detailed six other occasions in which the teacher was reprimanded for various offenses since 2011 that involved rude communications with staff and parents, inappropriate comments to students, animosity toward parents and students, falsifying school documents, and other issues.
The termination letter states Mason was fired “on the basis of insubordination, conduct unbecoming of a teacher, inefficiency, incompetency, and neglect of duty,” the Courier-Journal reports.
The news site reports one of the documented problems with Mason involved her telling fifth-graders that “wearing short shorts is setting themselves up for being raped and that the man at the bus stop would wait for (his) moment to snatch them.”
WDRB tried unsuccessfully to contact Mason for comment.
The teacher is now appealing her termination to a state tribunal in a bid to get her job back, officials with the Kentucky Department of Education confirmed.
Mason was previously a guidance counselor at Fern Creek Elementary School between 1998 and 2013, but was demoted to a teaching position and reassigned to Rutherford Elementary due to her problems communicating respectfully with parents, teachers and students.
Her case isn’t the only one of several in Jefferson County Public Schools involving teachers possibly mistreating students.
Over the past few months, JCPS officials have been investigating a number of incidents over the past decade involving student injuries, following Hargens’ Aug. 23 report to the Jefferson County Board of Education indicating that 14 employees were involved.
In that report, Hargens said the district made a “data entry discrepancy” in reporting to the state the number of times students were either physically held down or confined to a room during the 2014-15 school year.
On Sept. 14, JCPS suspended 10 employees with pay and reassigned to non-instructional duties throughout the course of the investigation. Incidents involving four other employees no longer employed with JCPS are also under investigation.
However, the case involving Mason is not among that group of employees.