A Spanish teacher at H.E. McCracken Middle School has been charged with simple assault and third-degree battery and placed on paid leave after allegedly hitting a student on the back with a leather pouch.
The 14-year-old student had not been paying attention in class Tuesday and was not in his assigned seat, according to the Bluffton Police Department. Police said the teacher, Lester Eduardo Lara, 39, approached and tried to take a school-owned iPad from the ninth-grader.
The student pulled away and responded: “What the (expletive) are you doing?”
Lara then slapped the student on the back with a “leather pouch/sheath-like souvenir” he had been using during instruction, a news release said. Witnesses reported that Lara slapped the student three to five times on the back, and the student then pushed Lara and ran to the front office to call his parents, according to police.
The school resource officer found light-red marks on the student’s back when investigating the incident, a news release said.
The Beaufort County School District has placed Lara on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation by the school district and Bluffton police.
The school district would not release information about if the student was disciplined after the incident or if he has a disciplinary record, district spokesman Jim Foster said.
Lara turned himself in to police Wednesday morning and was released on his own recognizance later that day after his bail was set at $1,092.50, according to the Beaufort County Detention Center.
Attempts Wednesday to reach Lara were unsuccessful. A woman who would not identify herself said the family has been advised by its attorney not to speak with anyone about the incident.
Lara will continue to be paid his $51,872 salary while the district decides how to resolve his leave, Foster said.
Foster said Lara has taught in Beaufort County for 13 years. He worked at Hilton Head Island High School, Bluffton High School and Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence before coming to McCracken in the 2009-10 school year, Foster said.
He said Lara has no prior incidents on his teaching record.
Attempts Wednesday to reach McCracken principal Todd Bornscheuer were unsuccessful.