Mar 6, 2012 7:17 PM by Maddie Garrett
Northside High School Coach Tawanna Williams testified in her own defense Monday at an administrative hearing at the school board, after being accused of simple battery against a student.
Police arrested Williams at school in May 2011, after a student accused her of intentionally bumping into her on campus. This is the same student that accused Williams of forcefully grabbing her on a bus in March 2010. Those charges were later dismissed. The most recent charges of simple battery were also dismissed last week by the Lafayette City Prosecutor.
Fast forward to Monday, the Lafayette Parish School Board decided what action, if any, it should take against Williams. After two days, roughly ten hours and several testimonies, the hearing concluded with Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper recommending a 15 day suspension without pay instead of termination. Cooper said while he believes Williams wasn't blameless in the incident, it was not enough to fire her.
"The accumulation of all that in my mind didn't warrant termination, it did warrant some punitive action but I think a 15 day suspension without pay is appropriate. We want to get this lady back to work, we think she could be an asset to the district and we intend to help her do that," said Cooper.
However, Williams maintained that she did nothing wrong, and that the "bump" was simply an accident. She explained that she took the stand to clear her name and stand up for other teachers accused of misconduct.
"I didn't do anything wrong and the reason why I wanted to have this hearing and have an open hearing for the world to see is because I was painted as this monster when the incident happened and I thought that was absurd," said Williams.
While the dismissal of all criminal charges doesn't directly affect the decision of the school board, member Tehmi Chassion said he thought it should have played a bigger role in their decision.
"I think that evidence should have been taken into account that everything was dismissed and it should have been completely dismissed on our end as well," explained Chassion.
Chassion was the only one to vote against the Superintendent's recommendation.
"I'm happy that she's returning to school and yet kind of upset and kind of bothered that she's still given a suspension after doing such a good job of proving it was an accidental shoulder brush," said Chassion.
Williams will be allowed to return to Northside High Tuesday. The 15 day suspension will be taken out of her salary over a period of time through June 30th.