NEW PORT RICHEY — A music teacher faces a charge of felony child abuse after she was accused of dragging a 10-year-old Calusa Elementary student across a classroom floor, leaving the boy with a slight laceration on his arm, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Cynthia Ruth Haring, 60, of Spring Hill, became “irate due to several students talking” Tuesday afternoon at the school at 7520 Orchid Lake Road, New Port Richey, an arrest report said.
That’s when she grabbed the boy from behind and dragged him 5 feet to a spot on the floor where she wanted him to sit, the report said. During the incident, the boy’s forearm sustained a slight, 2-inch-long laceration which he thought was from the teacher’s fingernail, the report said.
Three students upset by the teacher’s action reported it to Principal Kara Merlin the next day, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said. Several other students also witnessed the incident, the arrest report said.
After hearing from the students, Merlin contacted the school district’s employee relations department and was told to report the incident to the sheriff’s office, said Linda Cobbe, spokeswoman for the school district.
Deputies contacted Haring at Deer Park Elementary on Thursday, the report said. She was arrested and taken without incident to the Land O’ Lakes Jail. She was later released on $5,000 bond.
Haring also has been placed on administrative leave with pay, Cobbe said. Only the school board can suspend a teacher without pay and it’s possible that could happen when the board meets Tuesday, she said.
Haring began working with the school district in August 2006, but this was her first year in the classroom as a music teacher, splitting her duties between Calusa and Deer Park, Cobbe said.
Prior to that she was a district-based ESOL resource teacher, which meant she was assigned to several schools to provide assistance to teachers who work with students whose primary language is not English, Cobbe said.
The teacher has not had any prior disciplinary problems, she said.
Parents of students at both schools were notified by telephone Thursday evening that Haring had been removed from the classroom, Cobbe said.
Although teachers sometimes are arrested for activities outside the classroom, it’s unusual for a teacher to face charges over something that happened inside the classroom. Lynne Webb, president of United School Employees of Pasco, said Friday that she could not recall a similar case.
Webb said she did not know enough about the details of Haring’s arrest to comment on her case specifically.
“I do know it is more and more challenging for teachers to control student behavior,” she said. “I think we’ve been seeing that over the last several years.”
Teachers also seem to face more second guessing of their actions than was once the case, Webb said.
“We do have more and more parents and students complaining -- and I’m not saying that’s the case with this case -- over what are seemingly minor situations,” she said. “Administrators are obligated to investigate it, even if they think it’s absurd. They have a legal obligation to investigate it.”