GULFPORT — A Boca Ciega High School teacher was arrested on a child abuse charge after slapping a student during a school lockdown, police said.
John Robert Able, 46, was arrested Monday and released from the Pinellas County Jail on $5,000 bail.
Gulfport police and school officials were saying little about the incident, but an arrest report gives this brief account:
While Boca Ciega was on lockdown Friday because of a possible gun on campus, Able's students "began making a lot of noise goofing around in class when they should have been quiet," the police report says. Able tried unsuccessfully to quiet the students in the ninth-grade English class.
"While one student allegedly talked, Able stood up and slapped this student in the back of the head," the report says.
Able, after being read his rights, said he accidentally hit the student while waving his arms and trying to get the class' attention.
But a Gulfport officer interviewed students and another teacher who was in the room at the time. The officer concluded: "Able never waved his arms around trying to get his class' attention but instead walked up to (the student) and slapped him in the back of his head with his right hand. The impact was so loud the class heard the "popping" noise of when the hand hit the back of (the student's) head."
The slap did not cause any permanent injury, but the student said it hurt and burned, according to the report.
A recorded phone message was sent to Boca Ciega parents to notify them of the situation.
Able was hired to fill a temporarily vacant position at Boca Ciega High School on Jan. 3, said Pinellas County school district spokeswoman Melanie Marquez. He passed the normal background screening process. His contract with the district expires at the end of this year, Marquez said.
The school district placed Able on paid administrative leave as an internal investigation conducted by the school district's Office of Professional Standards is under way, Marquez said.