Educators Face Charges in Beating of Jamie’s House Student, Houston Chronicle, 6/21/2010

4 workers charged in videotaped school beating
Jamie's House Charter denounces allegations against superintendent, principal

By BRIAN ROGERS and ERICKA MELLON
HOUSTON CHRONICLE
June 22, 2010, 6:11AM

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Authorities filed criminal charges on Monday against the superintendent, principal and two former teachers at Jamie's House Charter School, six weeks after the release of a cell phone video showing one of the teachers apparently kicking, slapping and dragging a 13-year-old student.

Sheri Lynn Davis, the 40-year-old science teacher in the video, faces the stiffest charge, injury to a child. If convicted of the third-degree felony, the mother of two faces up to a decade in prison.

The superintendent and founder of Jamie's House, Ollie Hilliard, principal David Jones and former teacher Gabriel Hahn Moseley were charged with failure to report child abuse. The misdemeanor carries a maximum punishment of a year in jail.

A spokeswoman for Jamie's House said the superintendent and principal are "stunned by these charges."

"They believe the charges are totally without merit and will fight them aggressively," said Sue Davis, who is not related to the teacher. "The administration took immediate steps to investigate the incident after being informed and fired the teacher within hours of viewing the video.

"These charges are an overreaction," she added, "and should concern every teacher and administrator."

Jamie's House removed Sheri Lynn Davis from the classroom after the boy's mother notified administrators about the April 29 incident but did not fire her until a local television station aired the cell phone video - filmed by a student - on May 10.

The Houston charter school fired Moseley about a week later after an internal investigation found he witnessed the incident but did not report it. Shortly before being hired by Jamie's House, Moseley had pleaded guilty to twice possessing marijuana on school grounds when he worked for the Houston Independent School District. His attorney could not be reached for comment Monday.

Sheri Lynn Davis has apologized publicly for the incident. Her attorneys argue she was trying to protect a "mentally challenged" student who was being mocked during an impromptu dance party in a locked classroom.

Davis eventually got the students to unlock the door, and the video begins with her in the room, kicking a book and tossing a desk that sixth-grader Isaiah Reagins was crouching behind.

"We've been open and honest about everything that transpired that day and all the events leading up to that day and we will continue to do so and answer the charges in court," said Davis' attorney, Lisa Andrews. "Once that happens, I think that everyone will have a very clear picture of why Ms. Davis acted as she did and will understand why she acted as she did."

Brant Stogner, an attorney for Isaiah and his mom, Alesha Johnson, who have sued the teacher and the school, said the charges "confirmed what the children were saying all along - that there was a brutal beating and a subsequent cover-up by the school."

Stogner says school officials told Johnson that they had watched footage of a surveillance video in the room but saw nothing. A spokeswoman for the school, however, has said the video automatically erases at the start of each month, so school officials didn't have a chance to see what happened until the cell phone footage was aired.

The Texas Education Agency assigned a conservator to Jamie's House two weeks after the beating incident was publicized. A TEA spokeswoman said it would be up to the charter school's board of trustees whether to keep the superintendent and the principal in their jobs.

Hilliard, the superintendent, has been in trouble with another state agency before. She used to run a residential treatment center for foster care children that was shut down by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. She repeatedly has declined to comment.

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