Bethune Elementary students thought she was mean. The principal felt she was aggressive. Now the first-grade teacher faces a child abuse charge.
RIVIERA BEACH — A 7-year-old ran his hands along a bulletin board Tuesday as he walked the halls of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary with his first-grade class.
A first-grade teacher, Cynthia Smith, told him to stop.
When he didn’t, she reportedly slammed his head into the bulletin board, knocking out a front tooth and busting his lip. Though she claims a student pushed the boy, surveillance-camera footage from the Riviera Beach school shows her pushing his head, then forcefully leading him to her classroom, Palm Beach County School District police said.
He then is seen on camera re-stapling items on the board outside her classroom.
On Friday, police arrested 64-year-old Smith on a charge of child abuse. The West Palm Beach woman posted a $3,000 surety bond that afternoon and was released from the county jail.
A message left on a telephone number listed in police records as Smith’s went unanswered Monday.
Principal Katrina Granger contacted district police Thursday afternoon after she watched the surveillance footage from the hallway two days earlier.
An officer met with Granger and multiple students, all of whom expressed concern over how Smith acted with the children.
Multiple students told officers that Smith is “mean,” and one student said Smith yells at her “for no reason.” Students reported that they had seen Smith push other children too
Granger said Smith, who worked at the school for 12 years, acts aggressively toward students. Parents filed numerous complaints about her.
Smith’s behavior was investigated on at least four other occasions, the principal said, though the nature of those incidents was not immediately available.
When reached by phone Monday, Granger deferred comment to the district’s communications department.
District authorities did not immediately respond to questions regarding Smith’s current employment status but said she has worked different jobs in the district for 25 years.