Two Central Texas substitute teachers are under police investigation following allegations they forced middle school students to “bear crawl” on their hands and knees around an outdoor athletics track as punishment.
Florence Police Chief Adam Marsh told the Austin American-Statesman he saw injuries on the hands of four sixth graders at Florence Middle School. Marsh said two sets of parents filed complaints with the police department last Thursday and the alleged incident involved 16 children during a physical education class. The purported disciplinary measure came in response to one student disobeying an unspecified rule last Wednesday.
Marsh commented that bear crawls are done on the hands and feet without the knees touching the ground, an exercise used for building endurance and strength.
One parent with a child in the class told KXAN that a substitute teacher ordered the students to bear crawl on the school’s asphalt track, which is what parents say caused the welts and bruises. Another parent said her son “got off easy.” She described his blisters as “not nearly as bad as some of the kids.” This unnamed mother stated she received no notification from the school about the injuries and only found out about them once the boy came home from school and she saw his hands.
Eleven-year-old Michelle Gonzales told KXAN the students had to bear crawl for 100 yards and one of the substitute teachers yelled at them: “This will show your respect!” She said she felt they treated the sixth grade students like soldiers.
The Statesman spoke to Gonzalez’s mother through an interpreter. She said Michelle told her that for a total of 30 minutes the substitute teachers made the class run around the track in addition to the bear crawls.
On Friday, Florence Independent School District Superintendent Paul Michalewicz released a statement, indicating school officials were “extremely concerned” about the allegations and the student injuries. He noted that during the investigation these two teachers will not work for the school district.
“We have made the decision that the substitute teachers will not be allowed on the campus or on any campus in an employment capacity during our investigation and while any criminal investigation is still pending,” said Michalewicz.
“We are extremely concerned, and we are conducting a thorough investigation into what happened and how it happened so that we can determine the best way to respond,” he continued. “We want our parents and community to be assured that our staff works hard everyday to protect our students and the educational environment. Our students’ safety and well-being is our top priority, and we deeply regret when any student is injured at school.”
However, since the purported incident, some parents decided to keep their children home from school, according to the Killeen Daily Herald. Marsh said this has made completing the investigation more difficult.
To date, authorities have not filed charges against the unidentified teachers. Marsh stated their names will only be disclosed if charges get filed. “As soon as we have all the pieces of the puzzle put together, we’ll move from there,” he remarked.
On Tuesday, the Williamson County district attorney’s office joined the Florence Police Department investigation. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services also is part of the probe.
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