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SC School District Sued After Former Teacher Pulled 1st Grader By The Hair, Lawsuit Says

Both incidents were captured on video, according to the lawsuit.

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Florence County

Two years after a Florence County, South Carolina first grade teacher allegedly pulled a student by his hair and dragged him out of a classroom, the student’s parents are suing the school district for personal injury.

The lawsuit against the Florence County School District One was filed on May 1 in the Florence County Court of Common Pleas.

The teacher, Suzanne Brown Atkinson, was charged with two counts of cruelty to children in May 2018 after she was accused of grabbing the first grader by the hair on two occasions at Carver Elementary School in Florence, South Carolina.

Her criminal charges have since been dropped, according to South Carolina State Board of Education (SCDE) documents. 

In both incidents, she dragged the student down the hallway while holding him by the hair, according to online records.

“The first incident was reported by a coworker and confirmed after district personnel reviewed surveillance cameras from the hallway,” SCDE documents say. The first incident took place on May 3, 2018, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, Atkinson was not reprimanded or removed from her position immediately following the first incident.

When Florence County School District One officials looked into the incident, they found another similar incident recorded on video involving the same student who appeared to be crying at the end of the second incident, according to the report.

The second incident happened on May 4, 2018, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, “numerous teachers and students witnessed both of these incidents” that were both captured on surveillance video.

Atkinson was placed on administrative leave and then resigned from the school district in 2018.

However, Atkinson did not lose her teaching license. In February, the SCDE ruled that she gets to keep her educator license after she was issued a public reprimand.  The board found that there wasn’t enough evidence in the case to suspend or revoke Atkinson’s teaching license.

The lawsuit claims that Florence County School District One was
“negligent, willful, wanton, careless, reckless, and grossly negligent” by failing to:

  • check Atkinson’s background before hiring;
  • “properly monitor” Atkinson after she was hired;
  • reprimand or terminate Atkinson following the first incident.

According to the lawsuit, the child suffered “severe physical and emotional
injuries” in these incidents and the family has incurred medical bills.

The lawsuit states that the complaint involves negligence “where the amount in controversy exceeds the sum of $75,000.”

Florence Attorney Scott Suggs is representing the child’s family in the lawsuit.

Back in February, Atkinson was issued a public reprimand classified as “unprofessional misconduct” by officials that must be reported to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification Clearinghouse and all South Carolina school districts within 30 days.

Atkinson still holds a valid South Carolina professional educator certificate, records show. Atkinson has 26 years of teaching experience.

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