Officials at a school district in Mississippi said a special-education teacher has been fired after an uproar over a cellphone video that appears to show her grabbing a special-needs student by the hair and dragging the student across a gymnasium floor.
In a video, which has been widely shared on social media, a teacher is seen pinning a female student to the ground Sept. 21 during a physical-education class at Greenville High School, in Greenville. When the student gets up and reaches for the door to the gymnasium, the teacher is seen grabbing her ponytail and dragging her away from the exit.
In another video, the student appears to take a thermos from the stands and drink from it. The teacher is seen taking it away from her and hitting her over the head with it.
The Greenville Public School District said in a statement that the district’s board of trustees terminated Linda Winters-Johnson on Monday.
The Office of Educator Misconduct within the Mississippi Department of Education will decide next month whether Winters-Johnson will keep her special-education teaching license after it said she was accused of “physically grabbing, hitting in the head and dragging of a special needs student during P.E. class at Greenville High School.”
In addition, Greenville Superintendent Leeson Taylor has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation into the incident, according to local news reports.
“The board asks for the public’s patience as the investigation is conducted,” the board’s president, Loretta Shannon, told the Delta Democrat-Times, according to CBS News. “We want to ensure that we have a complete picture and an unbiased assessment of what occurred before we take action. But the board is taking this matter very seriously.”
Shannon could not immediately be reached for comment.
The cellphone videos were shared on Facebook earlier this month by Kesha Williams; one of them has been viewed more than 6 million times. It is unclear whether Williams filmed the altercations or has a connection to the student.
The videos started a firestorm on social media, where commenters are calling for the teacher’s removal as well as criminal charges in the case.
“This just gave me goose bumps,” one person wrote on Facebook. She added: “She straight up abused somebody’s child in plain sight … a special needs child at that!”
“I have two special needs kids. This breaks my heart,” another person wrote. “That’s one heartless woman who seriously just needs to go where she belongs. Hell.”
Still, others questioned why no one seemed to intervene.
“Imagine how that little girls mom feels seeing this video!” one person wrote on Facebook. “This is so sad and I hope that girls mom gets her out of that school immediately and hope that teacher gets fired right away! I just wish some of the kids that were videoing went and got another teacher instead of just sitting there filming.”
After the videos were released, Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned” and that the district was taking “appropriate actions.”
“October 6, 2016, the Mayor’s Office became aware of an incident that occurred between a teacher and a student at Greenville Public School District,” he said in the statement, according to the Clarion-Ledger. “The issue was one that raised concerns about staff professionalism and the safety and treatment of our students. As a parent of a student who attends Greenville High, I am deeply concerned like many of you.”
Greenville Police Chief Delando Wilson said police are finishing up an investigation and waiting for a judge to set a probable cause hearing to determine any criminal charges.