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Loudoun Teacher Won't Face Assault Trial

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page B06

Loudoun County prosecutors have dropped the assault case against a former teacher who had been accused of slapping a student.

Lynne Wine, 56, retired after 34 years with the school system as a result of the incident. She was convicted of the misdemeanor in December in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and appealed to Circuit Court. The charge was dropped Tuesday, days before the scheduled trial.

Commonwealth's Attorney James E. Plowman said the decision not to prosecute was made in consultation with the families of the children who would have testified.

"I think the fact that we convicted her the first time sends a clear message," Plowman said. "However, there are other facts to be weighed that are more important than sending a message. We had to do what was in the best interest of children and the families."

Wine spent 27 years teaching second grade at Aldie Elementary School in a still largely rural section of Loudoun. Enrolling only 90 students, the school is one of the smallest in the Washington region and is known for its particularly tight-knit community.

At her December trial, a 9-year-old boy testified that Wine slapped him five times on the wrist as he handed in a homework assignment more than a year earlier. Two other children testified that they witnessed the incident, though their accounts differed in some details from the alleged victim's.

Wine testified at the trial that small children sometimes require gentle physical guidance but that she had never slapped or intentionally hurt a child.

A judge said he found the boy's account credible and sentenced Wine to a $1,000 fine, but suspended $500 if she agreed not to work with children younger than 14 for a year. The judge had dismissed a second charge against her, in which an 8-year-old girl said she fell to the ground after Wine pulled out a chair from behind her.

Wine's attorney, Jamie Mastandrea, declined to comment on the end of the case against the teacher. A spokesman for the school system also had no comment.

The case had divided the tiny school community. Several parents testified at trial that they had seen Wine push or pull students, and one said she confronted the teacher two years earlier after finding a bruise on her own son's arm.

But other parents had spoken with deep admiration of her teaching style and the passion she brought to the classroom, and a group sat behind Wine at her trial to show their support.

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