Ala. teacher cleared in taping together students
PHENIX CITY, Ala. (AP) -- A sixth-grade teacher in Phenix City is thankful to be cleared of child abuse charges and plans to stick to the book for now on when correcting children.
First-year science teacher Sierra Pettway taped two students together by their forearms in December in an attempt to help them get along. She self-reported the incident to the students' parents and school officials.
The state Department of Human Resources investigated, and she got charged with two counts of willful abuse of a child. A Russell County grand jury dropped the case Tuesday. She was placed on administrative leave for a few days after the incident, but allowed to return to Phenix City Intermediate School after Christmas. Now that the case is over, she can keep her job.
Pettway told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer ( http://bit.ly/10NXSJC ) that she taped the boy and girl together because she wanted the two students to get along.
"My intentions were for them to get along, not just inside the classroom, but to see the bigger picture. It was poor judgment and could've been handled better. You live and you learn," she said.
Pettway, 25, graduated from Alabama A&M University in 2011 and returned to Phenix City to teach because her mother was ill. She said she self-reported the incident because that was the way her mother raised her.
"My mother always told me, `I'd rather you tell me than for me to hear it from somebody else.' So, that's where my mindset went, and that was pretty much it. I didn't have any ill intentions. So, I didn't feel the need to hide anything," she said.
Pettway said she had the charges in the back of her mind every day and prayed a lot because she knew she could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Pettway said she missed having a Christmas party with her students because of her administrative leave, but she's planning to make up for it with a big end-of-year party. She's also looking forward to staying in teaching and says she's learned her lesson from the incident.
"Use better judgment. Stick to the book. Don't get so caught up in the moment," she said.
Phenix City is just across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, Ga.