A Fort Worth elementary school teacher faces a felony charge of injury to the elderly over allegations that she assaulted a couple in their 70s at an Arlington mall Saturday during a school field trip.
Brenda Jones Stafford, a fifth-grade teacher at A.M. Pate Elementary School, is accused of choking and pushing a 71-year-old woman in an argument over a chair in The Parks mall's food court, then shoving, hitting and choking the woman's 73-year-old husband when he tried to intervene.
Stafford, 47, was arrested in another area of the mall about 4 p.m. shortly after the altercation. She was booked into the Arlington Jail on suspicion of injury to the elderly, a state jail felony, and offensive/provocative contact, a Class C misdemeanor, and released that same day after posting bond.
Barbara Griffith, a Fort Worth school district spokeswoman, confirmed Wednesday that the incident occurred while the teacher was accompanying A.M. Pate students on a field trip. She said Stafford was placed on administrative leave Monday pending the outcome of the investigation.
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"She self-reported right away, and she was immediately put on administrative leave," Griffith said.
Stafford declined to comment.
Bette Davis Morgan and her husband, Carlton, were drinking coffee and chatting in the food court when Stafford, while apparently gathering chairs for her group, pushed a chair on which Bette Morgan was resting her leg, commenting "Listen, lady, I don't need your chair with your leg on it," according to Morgan.
Morgan said she removed her leg from the chair and continued her conversation with her husband.
But she said Stafford deliberately shoved the chair against their table, striking Morgan's knee. Morgan said she told the woman not to shove the chair because it was hitting her knee under the table.
She said Stafford deliberately did it again twice.
"Every time she came by, she'd shove that chair under the table toward my knee, hard," said Morgan, who said she had injured the same knee in a wreck while in her teens.
After the third time, Morgan said, she got up and confronted Stafford.
"She made some kind of snotty remark to me, saying, 'Don't you tell me what to do, woman,'" Morgan said. "Then she got up in my face and started shaking her finger in my face and started blowing in my face."
Morgan blew back into the woman's face, she said, and the woman spat on her.
Morgan said that she spat to the side of Stafford and that the woman lunged at her, choked her and pushed her down.
Morgan said her husband was trying to intervene when Stafford shoved him down and began hitting and choking him.
"That's when her people started yelling at her to get off of him, that she was acting like a madwoman, and pulled her off my husband," Morgan said.
Tiara Richard, an Arlington police spokeswoman, said that officers arrested Stafford in another area of the mall and that neither of the Morgans required medical treatment.
Morgan said Wednesday that bruises have surfaced on her body and that she plans to see a doctor Friday to be checked out.
"It was a shock, and it was very, very upsetting," Morgan said.
Tarrant County court records show that in 1995 Stafford was previously charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and assault with bodily injury, stemming from allegations that she threatened injury to a woman while using or exhibiting a firearm. Prosecutors later dismissed both charges.
Court records indicated that she had passed a polygraph in the case.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655
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