Local News

Teacher charged with breaking girl's arm to return to class

Posted October 21, 2010 3:31 p.m. EDT
Updated October 22, 2010 10:55 a.m. EDT

— A Cumberland County Schools investigation has determined that a teacher who broke 5-year-old girl's arm last month didn't intend to hurt her, Superintendent Frank Till said Thursday.

Jackie Bennett, a teacher at J.W. Coon Elementary School, told investigators he was attempting a therapeutic hold on Tacara Gunn when the injury occurred.

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

Following the incident, school district officials reviewed the district's policy on restraining students.

Till said Thursday that the internal review found that Bennett didn't use a therapeutic hold. Instead, he improperly forced the girl's arms down, causing one to break.

"It was an accident. There was no malice. It wasn't done out of anger. It was just choosing to use the wrong hold," Till said.

Bennett was suspended for two weeks without pay, but he will return to his classroom at J.W. Coon Elementary on Friday. He will be required to be re-qualified in the use of therapeutic holds.

"We felt that he was a great teacher, and the school was interested in seeing him come back," Till said. "We only heard positive things about him."

The girl has been moved to "a different environment" and won't be in Bennett's classroom, he said.

The review also determined that district policies and procedures regarding therapeutic holds are "sound and proper," Till said.

Bennett, 57, of 6529 Pacific Ave., still faces charges of assault inflicting serious bodily injury and child abuse inflicting serious injury in the case.