A middle school teacher in Florida has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into claims that she allegedly used sandpaper to punish students who misspelled words during a recent spelling lesson.
Anna Garrett, a teacher at Burns Middle School in Brandon, allegedly forced her sixth-grade students to trace words to the point where their fingers were bleeding, according to CBS Tampa Bay
Josh Sommer, an 11-year-old student of Garrett's, recalled tracing each misspelled word five times on sandpaper, in an interview with the local television station WFTS-TV.
"We had to trace letters like 'I' and 'J.' [By] the end of the time, my whole table was bleeding,” Sommer said.
Several students reportedly complained to Garrett about the injuries they sustained from the alleged abuse, but to no avail. When she heard their criticism, she simply told her students to keep quiet and resume their work, news reports said.
"I didn’t want to get yelled at by my teacher," Sommer said, which is why he abided by her rules.
Garrett has been a teacher in the district for more than three decades. There was no mention of previous issues with the district in news reports.
Responding to the claims, school spokesperson Steve Hegarty expressed doubts that Garrett had malicious intentions.
"There are some students complaining that it hurt their fingers and we don’t think that’s a good way to learn. (But) I don’t have any reason to believe that she was trying to abuse kids," Hegarty told CBS.
The students' parents didn't agree.
"This is the only instance where he has been injured, and this will be the last. Makes me sick to my stomach – it’s hurtful," Sommer's mother, Darleanea, said in an interview with WFTS-TV. "My child was being hurt at school, where they’re supposed to be taken care of."
As part of her paid administrative leave, Garrett is not permitted to enter a classroom. The school district will make its decision on her fate when the investigation is complete.
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