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School letter: kindergarten teacher "oinks" at student

5:04 PM, Apr 13, 2011   |    comments
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A Roane County teacher is under fire for reportedly taunting one of her students, leaving the child in tears.

According to a letter in the teacher's personal file, the incident happened March 16 at Bowers Elementary School in Harriman.

The letter was written to kindergarten teacher Debbie Hayes from the director of schools, Dr. Toni McGriff.

The letter states that another teacher witnessed the taunting and reported it to the principal.

Hayes allegedly told the student, "Your area looks like a pig sty. Oink, oink."

According to the letter, the teacher went on to tell other student to "encircle (the child) and call him a pig and make pig noises."

It's behavior at least one child education and psychology expert finds disturbing.

"What little we know, if we take it on its face, you don't want people in authority playing a part in anything that degrades children, regardless of what you call it, said Dr. Bob Kronick, a professor in the department of educational psychology and counseling at the University of Tennessee. "Bullying is just horrible, and this is a total abuse of power, in my opinion."

According to the letter, when questioned about the incident, Hayes said she was "tired of the student's messiness."

She was suspended without pay for one day and offered the opportunity to apologize to her students, but there is no word on whether that apology took place.

However, Dr. Kronick believes an apology is definitely in order.

"The school owes that child and their families some sort of, let's talk about it so that -- too late for you, but it's not going to ever happen again," he said. "That label will stick with that child from those other kids for a very long time."

In the letter, Dr. McGriff also states that the principal shared complaints she had received from other parents.

Dr. McGriff goes on to write, "Please be aware that mistreating children by word or by deed cannot be tolerated. You have many years of experience, and I encourage you to not allow negativity to mar your career."

Dr. McGriff did not return the repeated phone calls 10News made to her office over a span of several days.

Debbie Hayes also could not be reached for comment.

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