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Teacher who slammed student's hand in door to be sentenced for battery

A Dowdell Middle Magnet School teacher was convicted of slamming 15-year-old Patrick Jones’ hand in a door. His mother, Shelia Peck, right, says her son is an honors student who never gets in trouble because he was raised in a strict home.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

A Dowdell Middle Magnet School teacher was convicted of slamming 15-year-old Patrick Jones’ hand in a door. His mother, Shelia Peck, right, says her son is an honors student who never gets in trouble because he was raised in a strict home.

TAMPA — After a teacher intentionally slammed 15-year-old Patrick Jones' hand between doors, the teen was told to file a written complaint with the office, see the nurse and head back to class with an ice bag.

Jones knew that if the roles had been reversed, he'd be in handcuffs.

He called his mother. A sheriff's investigation led to two misdemeanor battery convictions of the teacher, Mary K. Dwyer, 55, who is scheduled to be sentenced today.

Now a lawyer wants the school district to pay Jones.

The confrontation took place May 9 at Dowdell Middle School. Jones, during yearbook class, had been dispatched to take photographs of students. He found them in the media center, but when he opened its double doors Dwyer told him he couldn't come in, he said.

Jones explained that he was on assignment and showed the teacher his hall pass and camera while his left hand was between the doors.

He said the teacher told him that if he didn't move his hand, she would slam the door with it in it.

Moments later, Jones said, Dwyer pulled the doors shut and pinched Jones' hand painfully, bruising it.

"The shock came later," he recalled Wednesday. "She was deliberately holding the door with my hand in there."

A sheriff's investigator, summoned by the school, filed a report that led the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office to file two battery charges against Dwyer.

On the same day as her confrontation with Jones, Dwyer also grabbed another student by the arm and pushed the 13-year-old boy into a wall, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

Dwyer didn't return a phone message left at her home seeking comment. A call to her attorney, Michael McGinn, was not returned.

A judge convicted Dwyer on Dec. 4, court records show. After she was charged, the Hillsborough County School District told Dwyer that she was not eligible to teach again until her criminal case was resolved, a district letter shows.

Dwyer had been a Hillsborough teacher since 2005, and she had worked temporarily for the district before that, school district spokesman Stephen Hegarty said.

Jones' attorney, Jaime Garcia, has written the school district saying Dowdell was liable for failing to supervise its employees. He said he is seeking $50,000 in damages.

Had the roles been reversed, Garcia said, Jones would have faced up to five years in jail for battering a state employee.

Today, Dwyer faces up to a year in county jail for each charge.

Times researchers Shirl Kennedy and John Martin contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Teacher who slammed student's hand in door to be sentenced for battery 01/07/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 6:00pm]
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