Jacksonville teacher accused of hitting student reassigned

The allegations involve a teacher at James Weldon Johnson Middle School

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A teacher at Jacksonville’s James Weldon Johnson Middle School has been temporarily reassigned amid an investigation into allegations they struck a student.

Tamara Feagins, the school’s principal, notified parents about the allegations Wednesday in an email, saying the teacher has been moved into a role where they would have no contact with the student pending the outcome of the investigation.

“Our district professional standards team is conducting a full investigation, and we will also cooperate fully with all external investigative agencies that become involved when something of this nature is reported,” Feagins’ email said in part.

Feagins went on to say that she could not go into detail about the incident because of the active investigation into what happened. But she emphasized that “any type of abusive behavior is not tolerated at our school or anywhere in our district.”

“I would like to respectfully ask for your restraint in both arriving at conclusions and in discussing this in public forums so that we can protect the integrity of the investigations and the reputations and privacy of those involved as we await conclusions from the investigative authorities,” she said.

The teacher’s name was not immediately released. Also unclear is when the incident is supposed to have happened. 

A grandparent outside the school Wednesday told News4Jax that the allegations are troubling. 

"An adult has to stay an adult," Daniel White Jr. said. "When it gets to the point where an adult is about to lose it, the adult is supposed to have the ability to walk away and collect their composure.”

A Duval County Public Schools spokeswoman confirmed there is an active investigation with the school district's Office of Professional Standards, but said it is not possible to share any more details due to the investigation. 

Florida is one of 19 states that allow teachers to hit students as a form of corporal punishment, which is defined in a school setting as a paddling or spanking. But before that kind of punishment is handed out, parents must first give permission. Paddling or spanking must be done in the presence of another adult and parents must be given an explanation as to why their child was punished. 

It's unclear whether the alleged incident at James Weldon Johnson could have been an act of corporal punishment, self-defense or abuse.

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