Teacher cleared of assault, looking forward to new school year

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 22, 2004

Dallas A. Williams may be a little wiser, a little more cautious when he returns to the classroom this fall.

But the King’s Fork Middle School physical education teacher, recently cleared on charges that he assaulted a 14-year-old student last year, says the experience hasn’t soured his feelings toward his career.

&uot;I love getting up in the morning to go to school and I’m not going to let one little incident change that,&uot; said Williams, 25. &uot;I love teaching and I love helping children …seeing the look of their faces when they finally grasp a concept. This is not going to get me down or make me want to leave the profession.&uot;

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The student, during a hearing in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, accused Williams of poking him in the face and grabbing his jaw.

Williams, during court testimony, said he directed the student to participate in gym class on March 30. The student then cursed at Williams several times.

Williams denied both of the student’s allegations, saying he never touched the boy.

Nonetheless, per Suffolk Public School protocol, Williams was put on paid administrative leave until the police and social services departments finished their investigation. Within several weeks, the agencies dismissed the charges and Williams returned to work.

Williams was arrested several days later, after the boy’s parents secured a warrant against him.

Aside from having to deal with the public humiliation, the parent’s actions forced Williams to lose his anticipated summer school income.

&uot;It’s been a stressful summer,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s just been hanging over my head the whole time. On the brighter side, I’ve completed the projects on many, many honey-do lists around here.&uot;

Unlike most unfounded cases that end up in court, Williams pushed for the court to hold the child somewhat accountable for his actions.

Although the charges against Williams were dropped, the student was found guilty of cursing in a public place. The judge ordered the teenage boy to pay a $25 fine and write a letter of apology to Williams.

&uot;Kids need to understand they just can’t go out and falsely accuse people of doing things to them,&uot; said Williams. &uot;That’s the mindset that many students seem to have today. It’s almost become an epidemic and there needs to be change.&uot;

Juvenile laws and school system policies need to be reviewed and revised, he said. Too often, juvenile laws, designed to protect the identity of juvenile victims, are being abused.

&uot;Parents are using it as a shield,&uot; he said.

Several states, including North Carolina, are studying or have adopted laws that issue consequences for filing false accusations.

Williams’ arrest was part of a string of violence-related incidents in the Suffolk schools last spring. In February, a substitute teacher at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary was charged with assault for pulling students by the ears and sentenced to 50 hours of community service. A teacher at King’s Fork was hospitalized in March after a 14-year-old girl attacked her.