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Teacher fired for aggressively breaking up 2nd-graders' fight

By • Feb 4, 2016 at 2:00 PM

The Columbus Board of Education has fired a second-grade teacher who district officials say acted too aggressively to break up a fight between two second-grade boys in April 2015.

Pamela Smith, 54, had taught for the district since 2000. Smith demanded — as is her right under state law — a hearing similar to a trial in which witnesses said she burst into the lobby of Fairmoor Elementary School yelling that one of the boys had hit a teacher.

Smith picked up one of the boys by “the front of his shirt and lifted him up so his feet were off the ground, pushed him against a wall, pushed him down to the ground, and knelt over him with her knee on his chest,” according to two adult witnesses who were trying to break up the fight before Smith arrived.

The two witnesses — one a kindergarten assistant and the other an instructional assistant — testified at the hearing that they were breaking up the fight and thought they had things under control, even though one student was swinging his arms and almost struck one of the adults in the neck. When Smith intervened, she was “angry, agitated and upset,” one witness said; the other described her as someone who “was in a rage and just snapped.”

The school board approved a resolution of its intent to terminate Smith in August. Hearing referee Michelle Gramza concluded that Smith exacerbated the situation.

“Instead of being a force of calm and control, she showed the same type of impulsive behavior that the students were exhibiting,” Gramza wrote.

Neither Smith nor her attorney could be reached for comment.

According to notes of her predisciplinary hearing, Smith said she did not push the student into a wall, saying that the boy fell to the floor. She was just trying to block the student from hitting her, she said.

Smith said the teachers who described the incident differently were probably coached by the principal on what to say.

There is no security-camera video of the incident, reports said.

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©2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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