County teacher wins in court despite an 'outside voice'

This Just In . . .

January 05, 2000|By Dan Rodricks

I WENT to Baltimore Circuit Court yesterday morning for something I'd never heard before -- a teacher defending herself against a charge that she'd hit one of her pupils. Barbie Scott certainly wasn't the first teacher accused of smacking a kid, but I'd never known such a case going to trial. It was an interesting few minutes -- Scott in the witness chair, giving her side of the events of March 31, 1998, the day she allegedly gave a 9-year-old third-grader named Kevin Scott (no relation) a bloody nose.

Barbie Scott, who is 41 years old with sharp features on an attractive face, wore a beige jacket and a skirt with a flowered print. She sat next to a chart that showed the seating arrangement and location of the "time out" corners in her classroom at Rosemont Elementary School. She answered questions posed by her lawyer in a strong, sometimes loud and assertive voice.

Her voice, which seemed natural and not altered by circumstance, was the most striking thing about her. It's not what elementary school teachers call an "inside voice," the moderate tone they advise little boys and girls to use when they come into the class from the playground. It's more an "outside voice." Sometimes, Scott sounded more like a varsity basketball coach than an elementary teacher. It seemed to me that her demeanor worked against her.

But then came questions from the prosecution that tested her temperament -- and probably the jurors' patience. They were the kinds of questions any teacher would have a difficult time answering:

You like some pupils more than others, don't you?

Kevin wasn't your favorite, was he?

You were angry at Kevin, weren't you?

You were frustrated, weren't you?

In answering, Scott was at times confrontational, at times smiling and patient, at times testy, at times calm and indulgent. She denied she was frustrated and angry with Kevin Scott, and it was my impression that such testimony hurt her. (All teachers get frustrated and angry at times, and any jury would understand that.) But those other questions, by their nature, seemed to force Scott's denials. How could she admit to having favorites, of liking some pupils better than others? The questions seemed unfair, close to irrelevant, and Scott seemed to be badgered by them.

The jury was obviously sympathetic -- and unconvinced that Kevin Scott had been smacked in the nose by his third-grade teacher. Barbie Scott was found not guilty yesterday afternoon.

A word of advice: If you go back to teaching, Ms. Scott, work on developing a good "inside voice."

Christmas pink flamingos

John Waters must be smiling. I saw pink flamingos incorporated into holiday decorations on several front lawns in Baltimore over the past month, while a Sun colleague spotted an interesting alignment in Williamsport, Pa. -- a team of flamingos, paired like reindeers and tethered by garland to Santa's sleigh. (Santa's sleigh being one of those battery-powered kiddie Jeeps.) Be still, my envious heart.

Angel on the loose

But decorative angels remained very popular everywhere -- especially those 3-D wire jobs with the tasteful white lights. In fact, they might have become too popular.

TJI reader Margaret Blair, who's lived in Hamilton in Northeast Baltimore for 21 years, got a splendid 6-footer (with 300 lights attached) from her daughter as a gift. She set the angel out front. "I tied it to a mailbox post," she says, "just in case anyone had an idea to run off with it."

Someone did -- on New Year's Eve morning. (That's assuming, of course, that angel didn't fly off on its own.)

Blair was understandably miffed. She searched the neighborhood, but couldn't find it. The angel appears to have been the victim of a drive-by snatching. I feel sorry for Margaret Blair but I can't encourage TJI readers to do what she wants -- call the police if you see it. ("There is a way I can identify it.") But I can encourage readers to ponder the metaphysical questions this theft raises:

If one steals an angel from thy neighbor, or even from a stranger, does one burn in hell?

Is theft motivated by angel idolatry a venial or mortal sin? Or is it allowed, sort of like a temporary-insanity defense?

What if the angel thief was merely preparing for the apocalypse of Y2K by surrounding himself with heavenly icons? Now that the world-ending threat has passed, is the thief obliged to return said angel?

Or is it OK to post it on eBay?

I think I'll stop here. This is getting a little heavy.

Only-in-Baltimore Y2K tale

One more Y2K story and I'm done with it.

In anticipation of the big event, TJI reader Galia Berry had some fun with the outgoing message on her answering machine: "Hello. ... Due to expected Y2K problems, your message will probably not record. To reach us, please come to the fallout shelter in our back yard, which is to the left of the generator. Have a nice year!"

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