A 64-year-old Brooksville high school teacher is in danger of losing her job after punching a male student who called her vulgar names.
Sandra Hadsock, a veteran art teacher at Central High School, swung two or three times at the student in a hallway on Wednesday and landed at least one punch on his face, causing a minor cut on his lip.
Other students pulled the student away from the teacher, according to a Hernando Sheriff's report. Hadsock, Central High's teacher of the year in 2009, was arrested on one count of child abuse and released on bond later that day.
Hadsock maintains the student was coming at her as he was cursing and she acted in self-defense, said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association.
"Which headline do you want to read?" Vitalo said Thursday. "Sixty-four year-old teacher hits a student that was lunging at her,' or do you want to read, 'High school student puts a 64-year-old teacher in the hospital'?"
Hernando Superintendent Bryan Blavatt says he empathizes with Hadsock - to a point. He declined to comment on the specifics of her case but said hitting a student is typically grounds for losing your job regardless of the provocation.
"Kids do lots of things that will tick you off," Blavatt said. "But you're the adult. You're in control. You don't allow it to get to that. There are ways to de-escalate the situation, and certainly it's not ever been acceptable to strike a student."
Blavati said he had seen a video of the altercation, caught on a student's cell phone camera. "It's pretty easy to see what happened," he said. "I can tell you this: Neither party is without responsibility."
The student has been suspended and more disciplinary action may be taken, he said.
As Hadsock left her Brooksville home Thursday morning, she told Bay News 9 she wants to return to the classroom.
"I love art and I love my students,'' she said, "and I think there is a huge percentage that would say they love me in return."
Hadsock has been suspended with pay pending a district investigation. A conviction of child abuse would likely mean the loss of her teaching certificate and termination, Vitalo said.
Vitalo has known Hadsock for years and had her daughter in his class at one point. "This is a very good person," he said.
Hadsock started with the district as a substitute teacher in 1985 and became a full-time teacher three years later. She has a clean disciplinary record.
Jim Malcolm, a former Hernando County School Board member, said that "some people believe since we did away with corporal punishment, the kids are getting away with murder,"
Malcolm doesn't subscribe to that theory, but said tensions run high this time of year for teachers and students alike. A teacher near the end of her career might have just snapped.
"Maybe it was just more than she could take," he said.