Two weeks ago, Quiana Nixon's 9-year-old was strangely silent upon his return home from Chester A. Moore Elementary School in St. Lucie County. She asked him what was wrong.
"My teacher slapped me," he said.
Quiana didn't believe him, but then he showed her what appeared to be a handprint on his face -- visible in faint purple even hours after the alleged assault. According to the child and another of his schoolmates, the fourth-grade teacher slapped the child because he was laughing.
The handprint is hard to make out in the pic to the left. (The exigencies of New Times' blog software make it difficult to post the picture at high resolution.) In the high-res copy emailed to me, there is a large, faint purple welt on the left side of the boy's face, beginning just near the hairline and extending almost all the way to the jaw.
I heard about Quiana Nixon from Melissa Barton -- the mother, students' rights advocate, and activist she-tiger who helped midwife the new Floridian law eradicating teacher tenure. This incident illustrates one of the reasons Barton was motivated to do so.
When Nixon confronted her school's administration, she claims she was told that the teacher had already owned up to her actions and apologized. "They said, 'Yeah, we know,'" Nixon says. "She came and told them herself, saying, 'I just did something way out of character.'"
Even so, when Nixon attempted to file a police report, she says she was rebuffed. According to Nixon, an officer with the St. Lucie Police Department informed her that it's legal for a teacher to slap her pupils.
Nixon says she spoke with a School Board official, whom Nixon queried about obtaining counseling for her son. The School Board official told Nixon that she would have to pay out of pocket.
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Since the incident, Nixon's son has reportedly developed a fear of school and has been having nightmares about school, one of which caused him to wet the bed for the first time in years.
The School Board hasn't yet responded to my email seeking comment; neither has the St. Lucie PD. I'll update if they say anything interesting. No matter what they say, it'll be hard to parse -- this slap-happy elementary teacher almost certainly has tenure, and it'll be almost impossible to tell if the School Board's attempts to defend her are motivated by a respect for her abilities or out of a fear of wasted money. With tenure in place, even fired teachers are paid a salary in perpetuity; it'd be irresponsible to let one go over a little violence.