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A. Brian Merry Elementary paraprofessional fired for slapping special-needs pupil, 5

Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 8:23 PM
Last updated Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 2:13 AM
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An A. Brian Merry Ele­mentary School paraprofessional was fired Jan. 9 for grab­bing a 5-year-old special-needs pupil and slapping him across the face during lunchtime before the winter break.

According to a termination letter from Superintendent Frank Roberson, a witness saw Sharla Tomberlin talking to one of her pupils during lunch about his behavior “on or about Dec. 12.” The date of the incident was later determined to be Dec. 17.

When the kindergartner became upset and started yelling, Tomberlin grabbed his face, placed her face close to his and told him to “quit yelling at (her).” When the pupil continued, Tomberlin told the boy “I am not your mama” and slapped him across the face, according to Roberson’s letter.

“While students may become defiant and need redirecting, your actions were neither suitable nor justified under any reasonable circumstance,” Roberson wrote. “While (the pupil) may have acted inappropriately, you should have asked for assistance from a colleague or and administrator. The misconduct of a student does not excuse you, as an adult, from remaining calm, professional and personally detached.”

In a statement, Tomberlin admitted to hitting the pupil in the mouth, “but not very hard.”

The pupil’s father said officials did not notify him about the incident when it occurred, and he didn’t find out until his son came home from school and told his mother.

According to an e-mail sent to central office officials at 7:08 p.m. Dec. 17, Principal Elizabeth Schad said she called “the parent” after school about the incident. The parent told Schad her son already had informed her about the incident when he got off the school bus, according to the e-mail.

Schad also wrote that Tomberlin was assigned to a different classroom while the investigation was being completed, “in fairness to the child and the (paraprofessional).”

The pupil’s father said he was alarmed that officials did not contact him before the school day was over and allowed Tomberlin to remain with his child that day.

He also said the School Safety and Security Depart­ment should have started its investigation that afternoon, rather than waiting until the following day. Schad’s e-mail indicates she questioned witnesses and Tomberlin that afternoon before contacting school safety officials.

“They never notified me that the incident happened,” said the father, who has transferred his child to another school. “If my son wouldn’t have said anything about that, I guarantee Ms. Tomberlin would still be at A. Brian Merry Elementary.”

He also said he has looked into filing charges against Tomberlin and will be meeting with Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree for guidance.

“I was more hurt about the situation than anything, especially when you have a young parent coming up there that wants to be involved with his school, wants to be involved with his kids and wants to work with them.”

According to a statement from Roberson, Schad “immediately contacted the Central Office” to request an investigation. The school system was closed for the holidays from Dec. 19 to Jan. 2, and Tomberlin was fired Jan. 9 when the investigation was completed.

Richmond County Board of Education President Venus Cain said she believes the incident was handled correctly but was saddened by the actions of the educator.

“I don’t know why it happened, but it’s a sad day when you’re supposed to care about children,” she said. “I know sometimes these children push buttons, and I know as adults we all have issues, but no matter what we have going on in our lives, we have to maintain our composure while dealing with a child.”

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fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 01/16/13 - 10:21 pm
2
2
I'm thinkin' ...
Unpublished

not a good career choice for Sharla.

justmyopion1
45
Points
justmyopion1 01/17/13 - 02:14 am
3
1
Where was the Teacher (Professional)?

There is no way 1 Paraprofessional can be responsible for an entire class of special needs students. I agree that she handled the situation incorrectly by slapping the child, but there should have been a Teacher there that is professionally trained to handle such a problem.Have there been any charges brought against the Teacher? We need cameras in every school, this may keep a lot of these type of instances down.

InChristLove
22481
Points
InChristLove 01/17/13 - 07:34 am
5
1
I agree that early childhood

I agree that early childhood career is probably not in the best interest of this paraprofessional or the children she supervises and what she did was the wrong way to handle it, but what struck me while reading this article is that the father NEVER mentioned the conduct of the child. Did the father discipline the child for his rude and disrespectful behavior to his teacher? All I read is that he wants to contact the Sheriff's department about filing charges. Seriously? The teacher popped him in the mouth. Why not meet with the teacher, discuss the situation, and hopefully rectify the problem without legal nonsense.

shir1ey1
24
Points
shir1ey1 01/17/13 - 08:06 am
2
9
Why is she not in jail?

Why is she not in jail? Excuse me but she slapped a 5 year old in the face. Being fired is not sufficient.

GnipGnop
12466
Points
GnipGnop 01/17/13 - 09:03 am
4
7
She should be in jail...

Nobody has the right to slap your child unless you have given them permission to discipline your child. I don't care how bad they are. The parent should have been called right then and the para(UN)professional should have been escorted off the property. What she did is assault and she should be arrested so that there is a record and she can never work with kids again.

Little Lamb
46971
Points
Little Lamb 01/17/13 - 09:17 am
7
1
No Win

The kid needed slapping (on the buttocks would have been better than in the face), but a parapro is not the correct one to administer it.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

P.S. I do NOT support filing assault & battery charges against the parapro. Losing her job surely will get her attention. That's retribution enough.

seenitB4
90855
Points
seenitB4 01/17/13 - 09:32 am
8
3
Whhhhaaatttt!!

We need more teachers like her....sorry folks....kids are running the school system now...the very reason some come back & shoot ....gotta have their way....never have been told no....I couldn't be a teacher even if the pay was $500,000 a year....
GEEZ....but I betcha the kids I raise won't ever shoot up a school!

soapy_725
43757
Points
soapy_725 01/17/13 - 10:29 am
1
0
Special Needs covers a lot of ground.
Unpublished

Another one of the "last nails in the coffin" of public education. Exempt from discipline and responsibility. An entitlement of sorts? Free pass to act like and arse?

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 01/17/13 - 10:34 am
3
5
seenit...I have to disagree.

seenit...I have to disagree. We do NOT need more teachers like her. Slapping a 5 year old on the face should NEVER be tolerated. Her title is or was a paraPROFESSIONAL. We should expect her and others to live up to their titles.

MarinerMan
2107
Points
MarinerMan 01/17/13 - 10:41 am
9
1
Let's Jump IN
Unpublished

Don't know anything about the kid, but the pop on the mouth will not cause him any irreparable damage. Agree, the father did not bring up behavior of the kid once. My wife is a Special Education teacher. She's had a kid peel a fire alarm box off of the wall during an "outburst". At the first PTO meeting, it should be explained that respect should be taught @ home, but if it is not, it will be taught in school. I'm not talking about a coach with a drilled paddle here. Give me a D*(% break. The pop should've been applied to the butt, however the mouth was the noise generator. Daddy, sit the heck down, and shut up -- "He also said he has looked into filing charges against Tomberlin and will be meeting with Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree for guidance". Give me a break... Is this the very first time the little cherub has acted out? Probably not.

seenitB4
90855
Points
seenitB4 01/17/13 - 10:45 am
7
1
patty

Many will disagree with me...I know that & don't care...we all have opinions..mine is this...

Give me 1 year & I could change the school system forever....kids would behave---parents would respect the teachers.....& the jail system could be turned over too....jailbirds wouldn't be getting millions in refunds from daddy giverment.....I'm sick of pc on here & in life.....what is going on in todays world IS NOT WORKING!!

FIX IT.....or let some who can fix it....taking a wimpy stand on anything brings the USA down to our knees....I see that everyday...our jails are overflowing---schools are sinking & we keep going in the same stupid direction.

justmyopion1
45
Points
justmyopion1 01/17/13 - 11:32 am
4
0
Para-Professional?

Broken down the word Paraprofessional means alongside the Professional.In this case Para(alongside) Professional(Teacher).The Paraprofessional should have NEVER been alone with the Students.I bet if you check the Teacher handbook it will state that.The problem in schools today is the job of teaching has become like a lot of jobs, passed on to the person under them in charge.I bet most people don't even know the job of a Paraprofessional, nor do they care until something like this happens.I feel the Paraprofessionals are only a scape goat for the Teachers.I feel theTeachers should be with their Students at all times unless there is an emergency, at which time the Para steps in until another Professional can assist her.Why didn't the other Para that saw what was transpiring in the lunchroom step in to assist instead of waiting until there was a problem and then tattling.We need Teachers that are willing to do their job, Soldiers can't put someone else in charge of a situation just because they need a break, we need to make Teachers more accountable for their chosen profession,they are lucky to have such secure jobs with great benefits.Maybe we should have the "Rotten Apple Award" instead of the "Golden Apple Award". And like Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.:)

catawba7
319
Points
catawba7 01/17/13 - 12:32 pm
5
0
Tired of Children who lack HOME TRAINING

I am so tired of parents who do not train their children how to behave in school and then the teacher has to deal with attitudes while trying to teach. For those who said this woman should be arrested SHAME ON YOU. Arrest the parents of this child for not teaching him how to behave. You see this daily, children screaming at parents, hitting parents etc. and then they go to school with the same behavior. Our country is going down the tubes because of a lack of discipline. If you don't want your child disciplined, keep them at home and teach them on your time, they are keeping other children from learning...I am outraged! Hitting was not appropriate in this case but I really understand the teacher's frustration. Next time put the child in a room, call the parent and have them come to the school (taking time) on their job and pick up their brat.

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 01/17/13 - 12:34 pm
2
0
She acted out of frustration and anger

That's never good. She didn't act out of a rational decision with the child's best interests in mind, or even with the best interests of all those present in mind. She was simply ticked off and wanted the kid to stop being a disruption/pain in the rear/problem.

She probably had ever right to be frustrated and angry, but she should have walked away and chosen her methods of gaining control with a cooler head.

I've always found that grabbing the meaty part of the muscle between the shoulder and the neck, that top of the trapezius muscle, to be the single most effective means of controlling an unruly or out-of-control child, even if they are my own size. Hurts like the dickens and doesn't cause a bit of damage or leave a mark.

I'm not a big fan of hitting or slapping, but forcefully focusing a brat's or wigged-out kid's attention can be not just useful, but absolutely necessary. They can get real cooperative real fast when you go about it the right way.

dichotomy
34448
Points
dichotomy 01/17/13 - 01:02 pm
6
0
My mom "popped my jaws" a few

My mom "popped my jaws" a few times around the 5, 6,7 year old time frame and it was a great indicator that I had gone too far. And I had a few teachers that popped me pretty good with a ruler too. Even had a principal work on my bottom side with a drilled paddle too. Nobody ever arrested them. And I assure you I learned where the limits to my actions were. My question is did this kid straighten up and fly right for a while? Sometimes what these "special needs" kids really need is for somebody to get their attention and show them the acceptable limits of their behavior. In many cases the kids are special needs because the parent has not done that prior to them reaching school age. I'm not saying that this is the case with this individual. But we've got WAY too many kids identified as "special needs" nowadays simply because they are spoiled, ill-disciplined little snots with parents who actually protect their bad behavior.

Everyone wants to pipe up and say that the parents are the only ones who should do that. I think there is ample proof that the parents are NOT doing that and THAT is the problem. Don't tell me I can't do it because you are the only one that SHOULD do it when the fact is that you WON'T do it and somebody surely NEEDS TO DO IT.

Sweet son
10739
Points
Sweet son 01/17/13 - 01:24 pm
5
3
@justmyopion1

Guess what? Teachers have to take a leak at least once during the day so how do you suppose they can be with their students at all times! Give us all a break!!!

I also support my friend Seenit and would work with her at any time on solutions to many different problems!

justmyopion1
45
Points
justmyopion1 01/17/13 - 01:58 pm
4
1
Sweet son

We never had Para's when I was going to school and I never remember a teacher busting because they didn't get(to take a leaK) a break, and I also don't ever remember screaming in an Adults face (or any student)for that matter.I know that Teachers get plenty of time to pee, play, escape or what ever you want to label it, I was a Para. for 17 years, so give me a BREAK, Sweet son!!!!!!!!

movingforward
40
Points
movingforward 01/17/13 - 02:28 pm
2
0
Understanding special needs five year olds

This scenario is played out in countless schools hourly. A five year old special needs child can destroy a classroom, school cafeteria, principal’s office, as well as seriously injure students and staff. Working with students with emotional behavioral disorders is a difficult job and parents who have a child with behavioral issues realize the daunting task the teacher and paraprofessional are charged with working with their child. I am sure the district and the school provided existence training for this paraprofessional prior to being assigned to this class however it sounds as if the Paraprofessional reached her burnout point with this population. The district followed standard protocol in dealing with this matter. The principal reported the incident to the parent and the central office. The central office investigated the incident and the paraprofessional was terminated. The parent made a serious mistake by moving their child from a strong educational setting because it defeats the purpose of positive behavioral change.

AutumnLeaves
8451
Points
AutumnLeaves 01/17/13 - 03:00 pm
5
4
Anyone...

Anyone who slaps a child in the mouth shouldn't be a teacher or a parent. Parents and teachers need to be models of self-control and not give in to temper fits of their own or others. Good grief. If someone slapped you or me in the mouth we'd be filing assault charges. Should a child be left vulnerable to this type of behavior without recourse?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 01/17/13 - 03:42 pm
1
0
Fiat, that is the Vulcan death grip

and yes, very effective if applied right. I got paddled,repeatedly. I got straightened-out proper and I am what I am these days. Not too shabby if I may be so bold. So we get rid of the paddling and behavior becomes more beligerent and disrespectful. Now we become horrified, mortified, stupified at the mention of a child getting a attitude adjustment?!?! Am I missing something?!?! We are debating the inclusion of weapons for the teachers and administration here people? WAKE UP!

That said, the woman had no right to lay hands on him and the child was in need of special care as the story reveals. Putting that responsibility squarely on the shoulders of a paraprofessional does slightly indicate a failure of administration as well. Maybe there is more culpability here than meets the eye and the delay in the investigation/report was alot of shuffling to cover keisters. dunno

Sweet son
10739
Points
Sweet son 01/17/13 - 03:54 pm
4
0
justmyopion1

Sorry you got lit up! We appreciate all of your years of service and understand that you know first hand of the frustrations that occur within the classroom. I hear of those frustrations each evening. Since today is the 100th day of the school year I will hear about school for the next 80 days. Thirty years is enough and "we" will be done teaching at the end of this year because students are not controllable anymore and parents seem not to care.

seenitB4
90855
Points
seenitB4 01/17/13 - 04:39 pm
2
1
They need discipline

What happens when Children don’t follow Discipline

What exactly children experience if they don’t practice discipline?

1. There is no self-control.

2. They disrespect people in authority like their parents.

3. They think everything they do is a proper behavior.

4. They become threat to others.

5. They become self-seeking and they are not a good company to others.

6. Their social skills are not developed.

7. They find it hard to forge friendship with others.

8. Other virtues like generosity, long patience, and empathy are also lacking.

9. They will show harmful, negative behavior to themselves and others.

10. Finally, they become very unhappy and find no real meaning of life.

Thanks sweetson....how many of our generation took a gun to school to kill others..hmmmmm....zero that i know of.....& what did we get that the children of today don't get....Figure it out...

Animallvr
3
Points
Animallvr 01/17/13 - 05:41 pm
1
0
Justmyopinion1 As a current

Justmyopinion1
As a current teacher, I do not have a restroom break from11:40 until 4:25. I know that may not be a problem for everybody, but I end up absolutely having to go by 3:30-4:00. It downright hurts!

justmyopion1
45
Points
justmyopion1 01/17/13 - 05:42 pm
1
0
sweet son

Just out of curiosity if you are retiring at the end of this year, were you at school posting comments on this page? By the way you didn't get me lit up those days are over I quit being a Para years ago!!!!My end remark on this subject is I feel that the Para was left to handle a situation that should have been a Teachers to solve. No an adult should not hit a child, but I can bet the poor Para in charge of that class was at her wits end.Just saying!:)

justmyopion1
45
Points
justmyopion1 01/17/13 - 05:58 pm
1
0
Animallvr

Well as a Parapro. I can tell you what I used to have to do in that situation when the Teacher I worked for was out of the room for the day.I would line the kids up stop by another classroom with a Para, ask them to help me watch the students in the hall while I used the girls restroom and then let all the students use the restroom.I had to do this many times.I am sorry that no one at your school will offer to help.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 01/17/13 - 09:30 pm
1
0
I had my fair share of

I had my fair share of spankings when I was little. Never, ever did my mother slap me across the face, especially at age 5. I can't imagine someone at school slapping me across my face even back then.

Sweet son
10739
Points
Sweet son 01/18/13 - 02:07 pm
0
0
@justmyopion1

I started to bait you by telling you that I did indeed post comments from school but if you look back you will see that I put the word we in quotes when referring to retiring. We in that text meant my spouse and I hear all about school everyday. "We" just don't want to teach anymore because of the exhausting amount of paperwork and the disrespectful children who are assigned to "our" class. I guess my spouse would say it has been a good run but in the last ten years the kids have just gotten worse and worse.

We have young friends and relatives who are currently teachers and I just hope they have the stamina to make it to the end of their careers. I did notice you quit after 17 years. That number of years is over half of a TRS retirement. Hope it wasn't the kids that made you leave.

Have a good day!

SS

AutumnLeaves
8451
Points
AutumnLeaves 01/18/13 - 09:10 pm
0
0
Not discipline.

Making a forceful physical contact against a child is not discipline. Slapping a child in the face is a physical assault, not to be confused with ANY form of discipline. Would you allow anyone to slap YOU in the face?

justmyopion1
45
Points
justmyopion1 01/18/13 - 09:32 pm
1
0
Sweet son

See you are never to old to learn something new, I didn't realize "We" means She. I guess I should have known from the phrase "We" are pregnant, I never could figure that one out either. I know it sounds like I am putting down every Teacher, not so I have worked with some truly dedicated Teachers.I guess I just had some pretty bad experiences with the bad ones.I did quit after 17 long long long years. I enjoyed the kids it was the adults that were the pain!I just think it is a shame that the Para. in this article didn't get more respect from the Administration.The environment in schools today is more hostile for everyone involved!I have enjoyed venting with you, I hope "We" have a very happy retirement!!!!!:)

JRC2024
9308
Points
JRC2024 01/20/13 - 10:47 pm
0
0
I thought A. B. Merry was a

I thought A. B. Merry was a school for children that did not have "Special Needs". I had a part time secretary that would come in after her job as a teacher at Dorothy Hines and she would look worn out. She said a lot of the kids were awful and just laughed at homework and behavior was nowhere to be found, parents would scream and yell at the teachers. How she took it I do not know except that it most have been for the money. She said many times that if she knew it was going to be like this she would have never worked so hard to get the job. I told her she needed to transfer to a private school where the kids cared and the PARENTS cared. Firing was enough for the paraprofessional. I have to agree with Seenit on some of her ideas. In all my 12 years of regular school I never saw a student act like what happened at ABM. And like David Parker I was hit on the knuckles at William Robinson, Paddled at Langford and also given 60 hours detention hall and detention at Richomnd Academy where I graduated in 1967. None of that ever hurt anything but my pride and I promise you I turned out very very well and so did many of my friends.

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