Teacher assaulted by student has claim denied by district

March 9, 2011 3:52:43 PM PST
A teacher was assaulted by a student, and months later, he is still dealing with medical problems. The family tells Eyewitness News they feel the school district has turned its back on them. When a student assaults a teacher, the student, if found guilty, goes through the criminal justice system. But what happens to the teacher, the victim of the crime?

One teacher says he is being denied pay guaranteed by state law. And his wife says she is taking it to the next level.

Regina Ricketts shows her frustration with what she says she's had to endure over the past year. Dealing with her husband's head injury hasn't been easy.

She said, "It's a scary place to be. After the injury, I had to watch him to make sure he was breathing at night well. There would be times when I would hear him and I had to turn his head because he would be vomiting because of the head swelling."

Her husband, Charles Ricketts, suffered a concussion and broken hand after being assaulted by a 14-year-old student at Bammel Middle School. Ricketts says the student tripped and pushed him, forcing Ricketts off his feet.

"I went through the air and landed on my head," Charles explained. "Apparently, it sounds like, from witness reports, it was like a basketball going up and down."

Harris County juvenile court documents report the student "pled guilty to assaulting you." In a letter from the Spring Independent School District, days after the event Ricketts is informed he is "immediately placed on assault leave."

Yet less than a month later, on March 2, 2010, Spring ISD reaches a different conclusion saying, administrators "do not believe that this incident was an assault."

According to the union, by saying an assault did not happen, Spring ISD does not have to pay Ricketts teacher assault leave.

Gayle Fallon with the Houston Federation of Teachers said, "When you're assaulted on the job, you deserve 100 percent."

Fallon helped to enact the teacher assault leave law more than 15 years ago, guaranteeing full compensation and their job back if physical injury happens.

"They look like a much safer district if they fail to report," Fallon said. "But how do you not report something where the kid was convicted in court?"

Ricketts says he wants back pay for the five months he was out recuperating. The Spring school district said Ricketts did not meet his deadline to appeal their decision.

Meanwhile Regina Ricketts is already meeting with state lawmakers to change the law so school districts must abide by the court system.