A Williford teacher accused of burning a student with a piece of hot metal after students in his classroom laughed at him has been suspended without pay.
Parents of two students in the classroom have also filed criminal charges against the teacher, Eddie James of Hardy, in the incident which occurred Friday afternoon in the Williford High School agri classroom.
Hillary Claude, 16, was treated in the emergency room at Eastern Ozarks Regional Health System for first- and second-degree burns to her right shoulder following the incident, according to Dr. George Jackson, the attending physician in the emergency room.
"We have taken disciplinary action," said Williford School District Superintendent Bruce Evans. "At this point in time he has been suspended from work." Evans said the district may take further action against James but did not specify what that action would be. The superintendent also said he had contacted the Department of Human Services Child Abuse Hotline.
Calvin Pickett, a member of the Williford School Board, said, "It is definitely being taken seriously." He said James will not be allowed on campus a-gain while students are there.
Evans said the school is conducting its own investigation, taking statements from students who were in the classroom at the time of the incident. Evans confirmed only that James had picked up a piece of hot metal, but he said the school district is still trying to determine exactly what transpired afterward.
James was supervising students who were working on projects when the incident occurred, Evans said.
Joy Claude, mother of Hillary Claude, said the incident began when James picked up a piece of hot metal another student had dropped on the floor. He burned his hand, Mrs. Claude said, and the students laughed. James then grabbed hold of her daughter and another student and picked up the metal bar with a cloth, Mrs. Claude said.
She said the other girl managed to escape, but he pressed the hot metal into the bare shoulder of Hillary Claude. "Then he said, 'Ha, ha ha, do you think it's funny now?'" Mrs. Claude said.
Calvin Pickett confirmed that the girl who escaped James' grasp was his daughter, Whitney. He said his daughter was unharmed but "shook up and scared."
Both Pickett and Mrs. Claude said they had filed charges against James at the prosecuting attorney's office. At press time, Sharp County Sheriff's Office investigator David Huffmaster said he expected to make an arrest when the prosecutor decided what the charges would be.
The Villager Journal was unable to reach Eddie James for a statement.
James had been on the Williford faculty one year and was working on his teacher certification, Evans said.