A March 3 incident in which a Greenbrier Elementary School teacher was injured during an altercation with a special needs student turns out to have been far more serious than initially acknowledged by Columbia County school system officials.
The day of the incident, Columbia County Deputy School Superintendent Sandra Carraway said a second-grade teacher who received a laceration to the scalp merely tripped during the incident involving a second-grader.
"It was reported to me that she had stitches from the fall, not from anything the child did to her," Carraway told a reporter the day of the incident.
However, a report filed the next day by Columbia County sheriff's deputies describes a violent altercation in which an 8-year-old special needs student attacked a teacher and a paraprofessional after they confronted him for punching another child on the playground.
Deputies weren't called to the school to investigate until the day after the incident, said Columbia County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.
According to the report, parapro Candy Turner, 44, was in the hallway talking to the student about the playground incident shortly after 2 p.m. March 3. The student suddenly "jumped at Mrs. Turner and started swinging at her. He hit her numerous times and then jumped on her back and choked her," the report states.
The teacher, Julie Wilkins, 43, was in the classroom filling out a disciplinary referral for the student when she heard Turner's screams and saw the altercation. As Wilkins started toward the two, the student jumped off Turner, ran toward Wilkins and shoved her backward violently. She then "fell from the push and hit her head on the desk, causing a laceration to her head," the report states.
The student then resumed his attack on Turner, swinging at and kicking her until "several other teachers" ran from nearby classrooms, restrained the boy and carried him to the office, the report states.
Turner later took Wilkins to an emergency room where she received stitches to her scalp, Morris said.
"It was a very serious event. This child had a meltdown," Carraway said. "He definitely was out of control."
Asked to explain why her initial comments seemed to downplay the incident, Carraway said she answered questions about the case that evening with the information she had available at the time.
"I wasn't at all trying to minimize it," Carraway said. "I was trying to report what happened. It was my goal to try to give what I knew. In the future? I'll say, 'This is the initial report to me.' I'm sorry if I wasn't as accurate as what I could have been, but I didn't know any different at the time."
Her initial information on the case had come by telephone from Robert Jarrell, assistant superintendent of student support, who earlier had discussed the incident with Greenbrier Elementary Principal Judy Holton, Carraway said.
The student was sent home the day of the incident with his parents and his parents brought him back to school the next day for the investigation, she said.
He was then sent home with his parents at the direction of a juvenile system officer after the police report was filed. The boy was charged as a juvenile with one count of battery for the attack on Wilkins, Morris said, adding that Turner did not press charges.
As a special needs student, the child's school system discipline will be determined by his Individualized Educational Program committee, required for all special needs students, Carraway said.
"They will do whatever is in the best interest of that child, of the other children in that school and of those teachers," Carraway said.