Texas Education Agency to investigate paddling incident

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by By TAWNELL D. HOBBS / The Dallas Morning News thobbs@dallasnews.com

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 1:30 PM

The Texas Education Agency will investigate the severe beating of a Lincoln High School student by a coach, and those involved could lose their teaching credentials, an official said Friday.

TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said Friday that Dallas ISD officials were not required to report the spring 2007 paddling incident to the agency because the coach wasn't fired. However, she said, TEA wants to review the actions of those involved.

DISD prohibits paddling, but the practice is legal in Texas. One issue that might interest the TEA is whether the paddling crossed the line from corporal punishment to child abuse.

"It seems that this has been mishandled since the beginning," Ratcliffe said.

Among those potentially under scrutiny, Ratcliffe said: former Lincoln head football coach Jerry Sands, who struck the student with a canoe paddle, and principal Earl Jones, who district investigators say concealed the incident.

She said that the investigation could lead to sanctions, possibly including the loss of educators' credentials or a reprimand inscribed on their teaching certificate.

Dallas ISD officials had no comment Friday on the TEA investigation. Jones has not returned calls for comment, and Sands has refused to comment.

Jones was given a 20-day suspension and will be reassigned to another campus after this school year. The action came after The Dallas Morning News requested an investigation report on the paddling. Sands was placed on paid administrative leave in September and was still on leave this week.

The student, whose name has not been released, received up to 21 strikes in the beating, which was witnessed by seven members of the football coaching staff. Most are still working at Lincoln High School.

According to the investigation report, the student was beaten so severely that the paddle split. It was then taped so the beating could continue. The student suffered severe bruising and welts to his lower back, buttocks and upper thighs and eventually was referred to a doctor for care.

The district's Office of Professional Responsibility began investigating the incident shortly after a parent reported it to the district's child abuse office on Sept. 5, 2008.

According to the investigative report, the student was removed from the football team for reasons that included a verbal altercation with a Lincoln security adviser who assisted the football team. Sands decided the student would have to take "licks" to be on the team, the report states.

The student agreed to take the paddling. He told an investigator that he thought he was getting five licks but received 21.

Lincoln coach Tyson Garner, who witnessed the paddling, sent the student to see a nurse after it occurred. The student said he lied and told the nurse he had been injured playing football. The next morning, Garner noticed the student struggling to walk and again sent him to the nurse. The nurse gave the student a referral slip to see a doctor. The student said he left the school but did not see a doctor.

Jones' supporters are speaking out against his pending move and are circulating a petition to present to DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

Patricia Davis, whose daughter attends Lincoln, said Jones is a fatherly figure to the students.

"You've got a community of children who don't have parents in the home - it would tear them apart," she said. "They need their principal."

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