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Hernando County teacher who punched student will not face district discipline

BROOKSVILLE — Sandra Hadsock always maintained that she didn't deserve so much as an administrative slap on the wrist for punching an unruly student in the face.

The 64-year-old veteran art teacher won't get one, at least not on the local level.

"There is not sufficient evidence to warrant disciplinary action" after an investigation into the May 11 incident at Central High School, superintendent Bryan Blavatt wrote to Hadsock in a letter dated Aug. 24. The district released the letter and its investigation documents Wednesday.

The district will provide Hadsock with so-called crisis prevention intervention training during the current school year, according to the letter.

"This training will provide you with strategies for de-escalating student behavior," Blavatt wrote.

The decision may not be the end of a months-long saga for Hadsock, a teacher with an unblemished disciplinary record who claimed she acted in self-defense after the student called her a vulgar name and bumped her.

The investigation documents have been sent to the state Department of Education for review by the education commissioner, who will determine if there is probable cause to recommend that the Education Practices Commission take action against Hadsock's teaching certificate.

Hadsock, who now teaches art at Explorer K-8 in Spring Hill, declined to comment Wednesday, except to say school was going well.

Blavatt's decision was not a complete surprise. He informed Hadsock on Aug. 19 — three days before the first stay of school — that she had been reassigned to Explorer. Blavatt told the St. Petersburg Times then that Hadsock was a strong, effective teacher who was needed back at work and that any disciplinary action against her would be minor.

"I think all of us are subject to getting better at what we do, and I think training is probably a good thing, even for those who have been doing it for a long time," Blavatt said Wednesday.

"My concern is how the situation got to that point and what might have been done differently," Blavatt said. "I tend to agree that the situation was one, when it reached the point on the video, where she didn't have a lot of choices. Does that mean I think this was avoidable? I don't know. That's beyond me. As far as the district's concerned, she's back, she's teaching, and we hope she has a successful year."

Hadsock was arrested on a child abuse charge after the incident, a portion of which was captured by a video camera on a student's iPod. Three weeks after her arrest, prosecutors declined to charge her, saying it was unclear if the student bumped her, forcing her to act in self-defense. Hadsock was suspended with pay, then took an extended leave as the district investigated.

She told reporters after her arrest that she was innocent of wrongdoing and hoped to return to Central, where she had taught since the school opened in 1988. The incident made national headlines, and Hadsock and her attorney traveled to New York to appear on the Today show. She became a hero in the eyes of some who lauded her as a symbol of discipline in a culture plagued by increasingly disrespectful youngsters.

Hadsock later agreed that returning to Central would probably be a distraction.

The incident began when the student licked a classroom window and left saliva. When Hadsock told him to clean up the mess, he called her a "f------ c---."

The documents released Wednesday include some conflicting accounts from witnesses and the student himself. He acknowledged calling her the name but said he was looking for paper towels to comply with her request to clean up the window when she called him to come to her. He said she nudged him and then told him to step back.

The student claimed that he did step back, but the video footage that picks up at about that point seems to conflict with that account.

"Step back right now!" Hadsock shouts, her back against a classroom door.

The student steps forward, towering over Hadsock, who stands 5 feet 5. Hadsock punches him twice, and another student pulls him back. The boy suffered a small cut to his lip.

"He was attacking me and my instincts came out," Hadsock later told school officials.

The student was suspended and, with his family, agreed to a transfer to another high school, Blavatt said last month.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Sandra Hadsock sits in her classroom at Explorer K-8 in Spring Hill to which she was recently reassigned. In May, she punched an unruly student at Central High who had called her a vulgar name. Hadsock said she acted in self-defense.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Sandra Hadsock sits in her classroom at Explorer K-8 in Spring Hill to which she was recently reassigned. In May, she punched an unruly student at Central High who had called her a vulgar name. Hadsock said she acted in self-defense.

Hernando County teacher who punched student will not face district discipline 09/07/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 8:34pm]
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