School board votes to terminate teacher accused of dragging special needs student by his ankles

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The Jonesboro Public Schools Board voted unanimously to uphold the recommendation of the superintendent to terminate the contract of Linda Stephens.

At 6 p.m. Monday the school board held a special meeting at the request of Stephens, who was cited for misdemeanor assault for dragging a student with special needs down a hallway March 31.

Through the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, Stephens also requested that the hearing be private.

The private hearing lasted about three and a half hours. The school board deliberated in a closed session for about thirty minutes before voting on the decision.

Before voting on the termination, the board voted publicly on specific actions that occurred during the incident:

[if !supportLists]1.     [endif]You put your arm around the neck of a student to restrain him. Vote: 4-2, True

[if !supportLists]2.     [endif]You grabbed the student by the ankles and dragged him into your classroom. Vote: 6-0, True

[if !supportLists]3.     [endif]The student got out of your grasp, and you dragged him by the ankles again. Vote: 6-0, True

[if !supportLists]4.     [endif]You told the staff not to call an administrator to the scene of the incident. Vote: No action

[if !supportLists]5.     [endif]You kept the student on the floor and held his ankles. Vote: 6-0, True

[if !supportLists]6.     [endif]Your conduct is inconsistent with your continued employment in the school district. Vote: 6-0 True

Stephens thanked board members for their time before leaving with her husband, Ben, and attorney Greg Alagood of Little Rock law firm Mitchell, Blackstock, Ivers, Sneddon & Marshall, PLLC.

Alagood said Stephens has the option of appealing the school board's decision in circuit court, but she has not made a decision as to whether she will do so.

Stephens is scheduled to appear in court June 2.

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All rights reserved.

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – A Jonesboro school teacher has been placed on administrative leave after police say she was caught on surveillance video dragging a young student by the ankles.

Linda Stephens, 59, was cited with misdemeanor second degree assault on Wednesday, April 9.

The incident reportedly occurred on March 31 at the Microsociety Magnet School, 1110 W. Washington.

According to the initial police report, when the 9-year-old special needs student refused to go to class, Stephens "took his hand and told him to walk in the classroom."

The victim reportedly told investigators he ran into the hall by the top of the ramp and fell.

He was quoted in the report as saying Stephens then "grabbed my legs and pulled me" to the classroom.

The boy told investigators he was "embarrassed because the class was laughing at me."

Once inside the classroom, the child claimed Stephens held him down while his classmates continued to laugh.

According to the report, the incident was witnessed by several staff members at the school, with one saying he went to Mrs. Stephens' room where he saw her "...on the floor holding (the student's) ankles. He was struggling trying to get away... (the student) tried several times to get past me and run from the room... At one point he charged at me and hit me in the chest several times."

Another witness estimated there were eight students in Mrs. Stephens' class during the incident. That witness said she "was worried that the child would hurt Mrs. Stephens by pulling her down or kicking her," and she "was worried for the child that he would have restraining marks on his ankles."

Once the video was reviewed, school officials contacted the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline which subsequently contacted the Department of Human Services-Division of Child and Family Services.

On April 4 a DCFS representative reported the incident to Jonesboro police.

According to Detective Mike Branscum's report, when questioned about the incident, "Stephens stated she did drag the student back to her classroom after he went down to the ground."

When asked what she was "trying to accomplish when dragging him by the ankle," Stephens reportedly said she was "trying to prevent him from hurting himself."

Branscum stated he contacted the school and confirmed that Stephens was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of this investigation.

Jonesboro Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kim Wilbanks issued a statement, saying, "Linda Stephens is currently on administrative leave from the Jonesboro District as we investigate an incident that occurred March 31. The matter was promptly reported to the appropriate authorities. As always, the safety and security of our students is of highest priority in our district."

The family of the student has retained the legal counsel of Taylor & Taylor Law Firm, a law firm based in Little Rock.

The law firm issued the following statement on behalf of the family of the student:

"We are shocked and angered to learn about how our child was treated by his Special Education teacher last week.  These days, when you send your child to school, there are a lot of things to worry about.  We just never thought our child being assaulted by his own teacher was one of them."

Second degree assault is a class B misdemeanor punishable of up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.

Stephens is scheduled to appear in court on April 28.

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All rights reserved.