SPRING HILL — Sandra Hadsock stood in her sun-filled classroom at Explorer K-8 School on Monday afternoon and beamed.
A little over three months ago, the 64-year-old veteran teacher sat in a holding cell at the Hernando County Detention Center, arrested on a charge of child abuse, after punching an unruly Central High School student in the face.
Now she's back at the head of the class, though at a different school, as part of a pending deal with the district to keep her job.
"I'm really glad to be back in the classroom," she said.
Hadsock was arrested on May 11 after she punched a male sophomore who called her a vulgar name and then moved toward her in what she said was a threatening manner. A student's cell phone camera captured the incident.
Three weeks after her arrest, prosecutors declined to charge her. She was suspended with pay, then took an extended leave as the district investigated. The results will not be public for another two weeks or so.
Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said Hadsock might have done more to de-escalate the situation.
"Obviously, she's not lost her job," Blavatt said. "Any other disciplinary action would be minor."
Blavatt called Hadsock an effective and strong teacher, saying they need her back at work.
Hadsock declined Monday to comment on the case's specifics.
She told reporters after her arrest that she was innocent of wrongdoing and hoped to return to Central, where she'd 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 many, lauded as a symbol of discipline in a culture plagued by increasingly disrespectful youngsters.
Hadsock, who had a blemish-free disciplinary record, agreed returning to Central would probably be a distraction, said Blavatt and Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association.
According to Hadsock's previous account of that day, the student licked a classroom window and left saliva, then refused to clean up the mess. She told him to go to the principal's office.
The student launched a verbal assault as he walked up to her. The video picks up from there.
"Step back right now!" Hadsock shouted, her back up against a classroom door.
The student stepped forward, towering over Hadsock, who stands 5-foot-5. Hadsock punched him twice, and another student pulled him back. The boy had a small cut to his lip.
He was suspended and, with his family, agreed to a transfer to another high school, Blavatt said.
"They were very apologetic and recognized the young man was probably out of line, and my sense is they just would like to see the situation over for everybody," he said.
Hadsock, who will teach grades K-5, said Explorer has welcomed her with open arms.
On Monday, the rules of her class were up on the whiteboard. Among them: Respect materials and others and Listen and follow directions.
She hasn't taught elementary school in some 25 years, but it feels right, she said.
"Seniors, I was getting ready for life, kindergartners, I'm getting ready for school," she said.
"I think I'm going to be great at it."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]