Local News

Fayetteville teacher arrested, accused of breaking girl's arm

Posted September 16, 2010

— Cumberland County detectives on Wednesday charged a J.W. Coon Elementary School teacher with breaking a student's arm.

Jackie Bennett, 57, of 6529 Pacific Ave., told investigators he was attempting a therapeutic hold on the 5-year-old girl when the injury occurred, authorities said Thursday.

A therapeutic hold is a way of physically restraining someone for a limited time to calm them and prevent them from hurting themselves or others, Cumberland County Schools officials said.

The restraint is allowed under state law, and Cumberland County Schools spokeswoman Theresa Perry said all teachers of special-needs students, including Bennett, are trained to use the holds as a last resort.

Websites with behavioral health care information say the technique should be attempted by at least two people. Perry said two adults are in every special-needs classroom in the district.

Tacara Gunn told investigators that she had heard a noise when Bennett held her arm, authorities said. A doctor examined the girl at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, confirmed that her upper right arm was broken and said it "appeared suspicious," authorities said.

Tarsha Gunn said her daughter can be "a handful," but she said Bennett shouldn't have treated her so roughly.

"You don't have to use that much force. She is not but so big," Tarsha Gunn said. "I don't mind her having to be put through a therapeutic hold. That's not the problem. It's the type of hold she was put in that makes me upset."

Tacara Gunn, teacher broke her arm Mother reported daughter's broken arm to authorities

She said Bennett had her daughter in a crouched position so that the girl's feet touched her head.

After Tarsha Gunn reported her daughter's injuries to the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, deputies arrested Bennett. Perry said she didn't know if anyone from the school district also reported the incident to authorities.

Bennett was charged with assault inflicting serious bodily injury and child abuse inflicting serious injury. He was released on a $25,000 bond and declined to comment Thursday after making his first court appearance.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office investigated an abuse complaint against Bennett in November 2008 but didn't charge him, authorities said late Thursday. A 6-year-old boy told his mother that Bennett had yanked him out of his chair by the arm and threw him to the floor, but investigators found no physical evidence of abuse and there were no witnesses to the alleged incident.

Perry said Bennett has been suspended with pay, pending the outcome of an investigation of the incident.

He has worked in Cumberland County schools since 1995, starting as a teacher's aide before becoming a teacher three years later.

"I'm not mad at him," Tarsha Gunn said. "I don't hold a grudge against him, but if you work in this type of classroom, you have to have some patience with these types of children."


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  • wildcat Sep 20, 2010

    I could not believe that they gave this man another job as long as he was not around children. What about the welfare of the young girl that he hurt? She did not do this by herself. He should have been fired immediately and charged.

  • jjwood2424 Sep 17, 2010

    He should have been charged for what he did in 2008...maybe this would have never happened to this little girl!

  • jjwood2424 Sep 17, 2010

    This man should have his arm broken and see how it feels... and for you people who feels like he was in the the right so should YOU! She's only 5 years old,how would you feel if this happen to your child? You would be on WRAL outraged!

  • wildcat Sep 17, 2010

    There is a responsibility that comes with a $48,000 a year job and an expectation that the job will be done in accordance of the law. This man needs to be in jail and unemployed.

    Worth repeating. I absolutely agree.

  • wildcat Sep 17, 2010

    The young girl said in the news she heard her bones crack in her arms. So sad how she was treated. Unnecessary. Will she ever trust a teacher again. I do hope she will and will be OK in time.

  • Jack Flash Sep 17, 2010

    "'...if you are too quick to judge and too mean to teachers, maybe next time your kid is about to run in front of a fast moving semitrailer, and this time the teacher does not stop him.'

    It's not the same. If the guy was saving the child from getting run over by a truck and broke her arm, he'd be hailed a hero. Instead, he was attempting to restrain her due to behavioral issues...and failed miserably."
    I agree that it's not the same, but I was responding to someone who said there was NEVER EVER ANY situation where a teacher should touch a student, and clearly there is. In between the extremes, there are shades of gray, but even one extreme example shows that it's not a "NEVER EVER" situation.

  • bensmyson Sep 17, 2010

    Just because the police have the right to shoot someone does not give them the right to shoot anyone for any reason. Yes teachers have the right to restrain a child from injuring himself or others. This child, according to the Fayetteville Observer was simply running around in the room. And this twisting the child into a pretzel is far beyond excessive force. The child weighs what, 40 pounds? Every parent has had to grab their child, how many have broken their arm in doing so? This teacher had specific training on how to restrain a child. He failed. He was arrested. Serves him right.

    Also in 2008 he was accused of yanking a first grader out of his seat and throwing him to the floor.

    There is a responsibility that comes with a $48,000 a year job and an expectation that the job will be done in accordance of the law. This man needs to be in jail and unemployed.

  • saucylilredhead Sep 17, 2010

    If your child was a classmate of a child who was out of control and disruptive to the point that he or she was in danger of being physically harmed then you would be grateful that such measures are in place and lawful to use to restrain the offending child and save your child from harm.

    An out of control child is generally resistant to any attempt to control and contain their outburst so it is very plausible that the child herself contributed to the injury by squirming and fighting the attempt to calm her down. It is very easy to point fingers and make assumptions in such cases but the fact is that in the course of executing lawful restraint that accidental injury could occur whether it be by a parent or a teacher or other adult in a capacity to take such measures.

    As a parent who has frequently volunteered countless hours in the classrooms and has witnessed such behaviourally challenged children act out toward fellow classmates and teachers I can bear witness that it can be unbe

  • com_mon_sents Sep 16, 2010

    for teachers...its "dam" if you do...and "dam" if you don't

  • BeenHereSince67 Sep 16, 2010

    UPTOP: "Teachers really need to be properly trained to deal with active kids"

    ACTIVE? Not: out of control, having a temper tantrum, or some other more proper term? Please stop using new, cute words to describe these outbursts. It's the thing these days, I know, to call something by another name so that you don't have to say what it really is, but it's not accurate and it's not right.