Group files civil rights complaint against Arlington district

Posted Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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An Arlington teacher is back on administrative leave with pay as school officials investigate new claims by the mother of a Boles Junior High eighth-grader who had pencil shavings dumped into his mouth.

On Wednesday, a civil rights group filed a federal complaint against the Arlington school district over the incident, which happened more than a month ago.

District officials confirmed that they are in communication with the student's mother and are investigating additional concerns she has brought forward.

Kyev Tatum of the Texas Southern Christian Leadership Conference said his organization filed a federal civil rights complaint through the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of the mother, Deidre Brown.

"We're claiming discrimination based on race," Tatum said.

The teacher has admitted dumping the shavings into the student's mouth as he sat napping at the back of the class.

"They're taking a further look based on information the mother has provided," said Steven Poole of the United Educators Association, a group representing the teacher.

The teacher was placed on leave for two weeks earlier this year as the district conducted its initial investigation, Poole said. She returned to the same classroom, where she apologized to the student in front of the class.

She was issued a formal reprimand for her actions by the district.

"It's a serious matter and it becomes part of her personnel file and more than likely will be reflected on her evaluation this year," Poole said of the reprimand.

Tatum said his organization believes the teacher should have been fired, and that a criminal investigation should be conducted because the student could have been harmed. The student spit out the shavings and went to the school nurse where he washed out his mouth, according to earlier reports.

"No reasonable, rational person would do such a thing," Tatum said during a community meeting on the matter that was held Tuesday in Fort Worth. He said the district exhibited "institutional racism" in its actions.

"Race played no part in this," Poole said, "and to say that it did is absolutely untrue."

He said the teacher strongly denies any racial element in the incident.

The teacher has been with the district for six years and has been teaching for 11 years.

Poole said she has had no prior incidents.

"She's been back in the same classroom without incident, so we're flabbergasted that this has come up again, after the district has already taken action against her," Poole said. "It speaks to how the district is reacting to what the SCLC and LULAC are alleging."

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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