Ex-teacher is acquitted of striking child in class

Woman says pupil made accusations out of anger over conduct reports

January 05, 2000|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury deliberated less than 45 minutes yesterday before acquitting a former teacher charged with bloodying a pupil's nose.

Barbie Scott, 41, of the 2200 block of Brookfield Ave. said she plans to begin trying today to reclaim her job as a teacher in Baltimore schools.

"I feel good about the verdict, but I still feel bad about my job, because I feel it was taken away unfairly," Scott said outside court after the verdict.

A conviction on abuse and second-degree assault charges could have resulted in a 15-year prison term.

Scott, who testified yesterday, was in her second year of teaching when Kevin Scott, 9, no relation, accused her of striking him on the nose March 31. She was hired in 1997 as a provisional teacher, which meant she was under one-year contracts. After the pupil's allegations, Scott was placed on administrative leave, and her contract was not renewed at the end of the 1998-1999 school year.

Yesterday, after not guilty verdicts were announced for the two charges, Scott hugged her attorneys, Keith Zimmerman and Sabrina Willis, before dabbing at her eyes. Outside the courtroom, several jurors shook her hand and wished her luck.

She said she thinks Kevin made up the story because he was angry at her for describing his sometimes poor behavior in weekly progress reports sent to his mother, Tammy Malone.

"I felt he felt he had something to gain by it, that he would be getting back at me," Scott said. "He said out of his mouth, `I'll sue.' "

Throughout the two-day trial, Scott's attorneys maintained she didn't hit Kevin. The boy's nose bled, they said, because it was extremely hot in the classroom, and he picked at it.

Kevin's mother acknowledged in testimony Monday that he was disruptive and had been suspended more than once. Neither she nor her son attended yesterday's proceeding.

On Monday, the prosecution called six witnesses, including Kevin and classmate Quentin Scott, 9, no relation. Both boys said their teacher hit Kevin's nose.

A third pupil in Scott's class, Darryl Evans, 9, testified that the teacher hit Kevin on the forehead after he put his hand in her face.

"If she did [hit Kevin], it was an accident," said the jury forewoman, who asked that she not be identified. "When we all got up there to start deliberating, I think we all pretty much had an idea of how we were going to vote. It was unanimous for not guilty."

Juror Mark Silbergeld, a lawyer, said Assistant State's Attorney Judy Temchine failed to prove the case.

"It was clear the state did not prove that she struck the kid maliciously, intentionally or recklessly," he said. "That's what they had to prove."

Zimmerman and Willis have represented the Baltimore Teachers Union since the late 1980s. Zimmerman said he used to go to court monthly to defend teachers, until the law changed in 1995, placing teachers on the same level as police officers when it comes to filing a charge alleging a crime committed in the course of their duties.

Under the changes, the state's attorney office investigates every case independently to determine whether charges are warranted.

Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center in Westlake Village, Calif., said statistics are not available, but he believes cases in which criminal charges result from teachers allegedly striking pupils are rare.

Because more than half of all states have banned corporal punishment, charges usually result from sexual contact, but he said students sometimes accuse teachers of assaulting them when educators intervene in fights. "We're seeing some cases where teachers breaking up fights will accidentally shove somebody into a locker."

Sun staff writer Liz Bowie contributed to this article.

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