Teacher Sues District for Assault Leave

     (CN) – The Beaumont, Texas school district wrongfully denied a teacher “assault leave” after a student attacked her in her eighth-grade math class, the teacher claims in court.
     Paula Sprott sued the Beaumont Independent School District, Superintendent Timothy Chargois, the Texas Education Agency and Commissioner Michael L. Williams, in Travis County Court, Austin.
     She claims the school board denied her grievance and wrongfully garnished her wages after a student at the Alternative Learning Center assaulted her in February 2008 after she warned him and others about talking without permission.
     She claims the student cursed at her and said he needed to go to the bathroom to vomit.
     When she told him no he spat on the floor and Sprott, who did not believe he was ill, brought over a trash can for him.
     “The student stood up and kicked the trash can at the petitioner,” the complaint states. “Petitioner turned her back to the student so she could press the call button. The student grabbed the petitioner’s arm from behind and pushed it over her head. The student exited through the door.”
     Sprott claims that the student was “kicking and knocking at everything in his path,” and when he left, “he did not head toward the bathroom.”
     Sprott claims her injuries forced her to miss work, on her doctor’s orders. Five months later, she claims, the district said it no longer intended to pay her wages and garnished her bank account.
     Sprott says the school board erroneously denied her grievance: that the student injured her and that he knew the physical contact was offensive.
     She claims there is no indication that the school board considered statements by other students who were in the classroom during, and that its denial “is not supported by substantial evidence.”
     “The general references to assault that were made can be construed to encompass both definitions of assault, causing bodily harm and offensive touching,” the complaint states. “In fact, the school board’s vote on the grievance was deadlocked at three for and three against. Applying the substantial evidence standard of review, it is determined that the student assaulted the petitioner under the definition of assault.”
     Sprott claims that under the Texas Education Code, a school employee who is assaulted while on the job is entitled to assault leave for as long as necessary to recuperate from injuries, for up to 2 years from the date of the assault.
     Sprott seeks judicial review of the school board and TEA’s rejection of her grievance, granting of assault leave and reimbursement of the wages garnished.
     She is represented by Russell Ramirez with the Texas State Teachers Association in Austin.

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