A civil rights group has filed a federal civil rights complaint on behalf of a Texas woman who claims that a teacher dumped pencil shavings into her eighth-grade son’s mouth as he was napping comfortably at the back of the Boles Junior High School classroom in Arlington.
The Texas Southern Christian Leadership Conference made the filing Wednesday through the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of Deidre Brown and 13-year-old Marquis Jay, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The unnamed teacher was briefly suspended after the incident originally occurred in January, CBS News reports. A formal reprimand was also issued. She had been back on the job since. However, the Star-Telegram suggests that she is back on paid administrative leave in the wake of this new legal twist.
Brown says her son was the “only black student in the class that day,” according to CBS, and she has charged that the teacher’s action was racially motivated.
“We’re claiming discrimination based on race,” Kyev Tatum of the Texas Southern Christian Leadership Conference told the Star-Telgram.
The civil rights activist wants the teacher fired. He wants a criminal investigation because Jay could have suffered an injury, too.
After the teacher poured the pencil shavings in Jay’s mouth, the 13-year-old spit them out and washed out his mouth in the school nurse’s office.
The complaint argues that the Arlington Independent School District reacted inappropriately to the incident and that Jay suffered discrimination because of his race and an undisclosed disability. It also says the district attempted to cover up the incident.
At a recent community meeting in Fort Worth, Tatum said the school district demonstrated “institutional racism,” according to the Star-Telegram.
“Instead of coming out clean and saying we don’t tolerate this, they decided to cover it up and let her go back to class,” Tatum told CBS News. “There’s no difference between what they did and the administration at Penn State [University] did.”
United Educators Association, a union which represents the teacher, categorically denied the allegation in the complaint.
“Race played no part in this and to say that it did is absolutely untrue,” UEA representative Steven Poole told the Star-Telegram. “She’s been back in the same classroom without incident, so we’re flabbergasted that this has come up again.”
“She’s apologized to the student has also apologized to the student in front of the class,” Poole told CBS.
Poole said the district is now investigating the claim that the teacher dumped the pencil shavings in Jay’s mouth out of some racial or disability-related animus.
He also added that the teacher’s formal reprimand would likely have a negative effect on her official evaluation later in the year.