Education

Teacher left school after pulling student's hair. Community wants her back in the classroom

Video shows SC teacher standing on student’s desk and pulling his hair

A Palmetto High School teacher has retired after a video of her standing on a student's desk and pulling his hair to wake him up went viral on social media.
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A Palmetto High School teacher has retired after a video of her standing on a student's desk and pulling his hair to wake him up went viral on social media.

A veteran South Carolina teacher recently retired after a video spread online of her making physical contact with a student who was sleeping at his desk.

In response, a member of the school board has resigned over the way the teacher was treated, while current and former students have mounted a social media campaign to voice their support for the teacher, including launching an online petition.

A march was even held, with the goal of getting the teacher back in the classroom.

Lisa Houston is the teacher at the center of the controversy. She taught math at Palmetto High School in Anderson County for 27 years, wyff4.com reported.

A video shows Houston standing on a desk, gently tapping the student on the face and twisting his head, pulling his hair, stomping her foot on the desk and pushing him in the chest with the bottom of her foot before climbing down.

Houston immediately retired last week after the incident and an inquiry, according to wspa.com.

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'Bring her back': Students protest resignation of teacher after "hair pulling" viral video

"If you ask any kid I've taught, they'll tell you I kid around with them, make them stay awake and laugh with them," Houston said, according to wyff4.com. "I know the video looks bad. If you don't know the situation, you don't know what's going on, but it was not a malicious act. It was all in fun. I want the public to know that I love the student, and that our rapport with each other was great. I would have never done anything to hurt him."

The father of the student in the video said neither he nor his son asked for disciplinary action against the teacher, adding, "I wish it would go away and that it never happened," foxcarolina.com reported.

Students of Palmetto High School protest outside of the school after a teacher resigned because of a viral video that showed her standing on a student's desk and pulling his hair. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp5pCMHTGbxkr3XrcYqGX-g

The assistant superintendent for Anderson School District 1 released a statement that did not make it sound like Houston would be returning to her longtime classroom.

"The district wishes our community to know that the school administration immediately conducted an inquiry into what occurred," Jane Harrison said in a statement. "The individual has already separated as an Anderson 1 teacher. Although the district is unable to comment in detail about the matter, the administration took seriously what occurred, and the teacher, who has had an exemplary record of teaching performance, decided of her own accord that she would retire in the best interest of her school."

Houston's attorney, Ryan Beasley, said she was was forced to resign, according to independentmail.com.

Another prominent person, like Houston, also left a position with the school district because of the incident.

Doug Atkins, the vice chairman of the Anderson School District 1 board, resigned Wednesday in protest over the way the incident, and Houston, have been handled, foxcarolina.com reported.

"I just don't want to be associated with this kind of action," Atkins, a former Palmetto High principal who hired Houston, said to independentmail.com of stepping down from the board after 12 years. "She was a good teacher, one of the best teachers the district has, with an excellent record.

"I hired her myself and know what kind of person she is. The administration reacted in haste."

Atkins wasn't the only person to react negatively to the ouster of Houston. An online petition was started, demanding that Anderson District 1 restore Houston's teaching position, and as of 11 p.m. Thursday, more than 1,200 people had signed it.

The petition said Houston "was wrongly accused of 'hurting' and 'mistreating' a student, when all she was trying to do was have fun, wake him up, and make him LEARN. ... She deserves her job back, more than anyone else."

Several students also have taken to social media to champion Houston as an exemplary and caring teacher, who has been described as "fun and quirky."

Some are using the hashtags #iftheyfirehoustonwehaveaproblem and #ifyoufirehoustonwehaveaproblem in Facebook and Twitter posts, according to greenvilleonline.com.

Students even marched on the campus of Palmetto High on Thursday afternoon to show their support for Houston.

The march began when classes ended at 3 p.m. and took the current and former students participating from the school to the Anderson District 1 office, foxcarolina.com reported, adding the marchers carrying signs in support of Houston were not let into the district office. The demonstrators eventually returned to the school's track and football field for a prayer and walk session.

"My client has a 27-year unblemished record teaching in the public schools. Over those years, she has earned the love and respect of her students, her peers and the community," Beasley said, according to wyff4.com. "She is devastated over what has occurred."

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