HOUSTON – TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culvertson announced Thursday that the state is officially launching an investigation at the north Harris County charter school where a teacher was caught on tape beating a student.
Officials at the Jamie’s House Charter School fired the teacher, Sheri Lynn Davis, this week after the cell phone video was released to the media.
The cell phone video begins with 13-year-old Isaiah Johnson backed into a corner by Davis. Laughter and applause can be heard in the background.
But what students thought was a joke quickly turned ugly.
"(The teacher) just started beating him up," said classmate Janiqua Johnson, who shot the video on her phone. She said Isaiah had been making fun of another in girl in class when the teacher snapped.
"His behavior may have been bad but he didn’t deserve that," Janiqua Johnson said.
But the TEA investigation is not only in regard to the school beating, but also into other problems reported at the school for at-risk kids.
The school has been cited for "noncompliance" dozens of time by the state’s regulatory agency. Those areas include problems with teacher certification, attendance and participation in the TAKS test.
A team of state officials will meet with school officials Thursday afternoon, Culvertson said.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating the allegations against Davis, who has not commented publicly about the case.
Meanwhile, The Houston Chronicle reported Thursday that Davis, a science teacher, did not have a teaching certificate at the time of the incident and never needed one to work Jamie’s House.
Texas law requires charter schools to hire certified teachers only in areas of bilingual and special education.
State Rep. Scott Hochberg of Houston is suggesting that charter schools be required to hire certified teachers, just like traditional public schools.
"There are so many avenues available to become certified that I don’t think we should be allowing noncertified teachers to teach," said Hochberg.
David Dunn, the executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association, says simply requiring certification of all teachers would not prevent misbehavior.
"There are certified teachers who misbehave," said Dunn. "Certification does not equal protection. The real protection around student safety is the criminal history background checks that all public schools in the state of Texas are required to do."