Insufficient evidence found in alleged pinching

By Greg Gelpi

A judge found insufficient evidence to issue a warrant against a Clayton County teacher who was accused of pinching her student.

Swint Elementary School teacher Sharon Shaw had been accused of pinching a 9-year-old student, but the boy's story couldn't be corroborated and he was shown to be unreliable as a witness.

The third-grader alleged that his teacher grabbed his arm, pinching him when he stood up to get paper and a pencil.

Clayton County Magistrate Judge Gloria Darty Reed heard from testimony from both sides, but did not find enough evidence to support issuing a warrant for Shaw's arrest during a pre-issuance hearing Monday.

"There's no probable cause that Ms. Shaw did anything to hurt him," said Shalini Patel, Shaw's attorney, representing her on behalf of the Georgia Association of Educators. "From one minute to the next, his story is different."

Patel cited the student's admissions of lying in the past, prior misbehavior at school, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and fear of getting punished as reasons why a warrant should not be issued.

Clayton County Police officer Larry White responded to the student's complaint, speaking with the mother and son and taking a written statement from the son.

"He said that he stood up to get (his paper and pencil) and she pinched him on his right bicep," White said.

The officer provided pictures of a fingernail mark on the student's arm. He said he found a "red mark on his arm with a small indention."

The student said he didn't complain to Shaw and told no adults until he got home and told his mother.

"I didn't want it to go this far," his mother said. "I just wanted to let the principal know."

She decided to contact police when Swint Elementary administrators were "nonchalant" about handling her complaint, she said.

"The way he looked to me it looked like she honestly hurt him," his mother said. "I didn't want all of this to take place."

Through testimony, Patel showed that the student lied to his mother about the need to bring rubber bands to school and that he was caught "flicking" rubber bands at other students in class. The student said he knew he would get in trouble when Shaw said she would call his mother to tell him about the rubber bands.

Patel also tried to show the child was confused as to the facts. The student was certain the incident occurred during math class, but not sure if math class takes place before or after lunch.

Shaw's witnesses said they had no knowledge of her ever pinching or ever grabbing him or any students. Those speaking in support of the teacher were another student sitting near the 9-year-old in class, a paraprofessional, early intervention program teacher James Ross Haymans and Assistant Principal Doug Lozel.

"I was not even aware it took place when I was in there," Haymans said.

The pre-issuance hearing was a hearing to determine whether or not to issue an arrest warrant for Shaw. White interviewed the student and his mother, but hadn't been able to reach Shaw, so the hearing was held to ascertain both sides of the incident.