The parents of an 11-year-old Indian Trail Intermediate School student are requesting the termination of a teacher accused of biting the girl for incorrectly answering a question.
The teacher was suspended for three days after the incident, but Ginny Casstevens and her husband, Nik, addressed the Johnson City Board of Education Monday night during the board’s monthly meeting, asking the board to terminate Erin Arnold, a related arts writing teacher at Indian Trail who has been with the city school system about 20 years.
On March 22, Ginny Casstevens informed administration at the school that Arnold bit her daughter during class on March 21.
According to the school’s report of findings, the girl told administration that Arnold told her class, “If you get this one wrong I am going to bite you.” The child then told administration Arnold said it in a playful way.
“She then called on our daughter, who answered incorrectly ... and true to her threat, Mrs. Arnold asked our daughter for her arm. She picked up her arm and placed it in her mouth and she bit her, resulting in the bite mark and bruise represented in the photos,” Ginny Casstevens said Monday.
In the report, administrators said there was a light bruise on the girl’s arm where she said she had been bitten by Arnold.
On March 25 and 26, four students who witnessed the incident, Tarah Guinn, Arnold’s academic tutor, and Arnold were questioned by administrators.
One student told administrators that Arnold was “playing around with them” during a lesson, saying that she was going to bite the next student who got the answer wrong.
That student said Arnold placed her mouth on the girl’s arm.
“I don’t think it hurt, because (the girl) giggled,” the student said, according to the report.
Another student told administrators the girl was scared of Arnold after the incident because she didn’t think a teacher would bite her and did not want to return to Arnold’s classroom.
That same student then told administrators that Arnold “acted like she was going to hit her in the face, but she didn’t she just pretended to do it.”
All four students said Arnold bit the girl on the top of her arm between the wrist and forearm.
Guinn, who did not witness the incident, reportedly said she heard students giggling in Arnold’s class, but did not hear the girl who was bit complain or act differently after the incident.
When Arnold was questioned, she admitted to putting her mouth on the girl, but said she did not bite her.
“The area indicated by the student was not the area where Mrs. Arnold stated she had placed her mouth. She said that when the alleged bite happened, (the girl) did not yell out, complain of pain, or jerk her arm away — she giggled. Mrs. Arnold stated that it was wrong of her to put her mouth on the student,” the report read.
Arnold also reportedly denied causing the bruise where the student said she had bit her.
In a letter dated April 9 from Superintendent Richard Bales to Arnold, he informed the teacher she was being suspended for three days without pay.
“You are being suspended as a result of your actions in your classroom on Thursday March 21, 2013 when you put a student’s arm in your mouth and lightly bit down on her arm. These actions constitute both unprofessional and improper conduct,” Bales wrote in the letter.
Bales continued to say that “physical contact of this type with any student will not be tolerated.”
“You are expected to interact with your students in a professional and appropriate measure,” Bales wrote. “Any actions of this type in the future will result in more severe consequences.”
The child also was removed from Arnold’s class and placed in a different related arts class.
On Monday, the board said they would direct their questions to Bales following the Casstevens’ request.
Board Chairwoman Kathy Hall declined to comment on the investigation and directed all questions to Lee Patterson, the system’s director of human resources and legal counsel to the board.
Patterson said the matter had already been investigated and Arnold was suspended for her actions. She also said this was the first complaint ever brought against Arnold.