A school district board of trustees voted to propose the termination of a teacher’s contract following allegations that she used unreasonable force to remove an 8-year-old defiant, rebellious student from the classroom. The teacher requested a hearing regarding the proposed termination of her contract, arguing that her use of force was justified and appropriate under the circumstances.

At the hearing, evidence was presented to show that the teacher worked at a pre-k through fifth-grade campus where over 90 percent of students come from a low socioeconomic environment. An incident occurred in the teacher’s class during which a student became disruptive and defiant. The teacher told him to step out of the classroom to calm down, but the student refused and sat on the floor. The teacher opened the door and began to physically remove the student from the class. The student struggled as the teacher forcibly removed him from the class. As the teacher attempted to re-enter the room, the student grabbed the door and fought the teacher’s attempts to close it. The teacher removed the student’s hands from the door and closed it. Although the student was in the hallway, the teacher was able to observe and monitor him through a window in the door. The incident was recorded on video and presented as evidence at the hearing.

The independent hearing examiner found that the teacher’s actions were appropriate, stating that “the entire situation involved no more force than that which is commonly used by parents with a child throwing a tantrum or refusing to cooperate at a store, restaurant or other public location.” The examiner also noted that the incident did not cause any pain or distress to the student, noting that shortly after being removed from the classroom, the student asked the principal to get a drink from the water fountain and was skipping and twirling while following the principal back to the classroom. Finally, the independent hearing examiner found that the teacher believed that the amount of force used was necessary for the safety of her students and that her belief was reasonable taking into account the age, sex and prior disciplinary history of the student.

The Texas Education Code prohibits a school district from bringing disciplinary proceedings against a teacher for the use of physical force against a student to the extent that the force is reasonable and necessary. Because the teacher reasonably believed that her use of force in this situation was reasonable and necessary, the independent hearing examiner recommended that the school district decline to terminate the teacher’s contract.