One of the self-help phrases made popular by Oprah Winfrey during her reign as the queen of daytime talk television was, “When you know better, you do better.” But some people still don’t do better even when they know better, as is the case of Kansas elementary school teacher Crystal Smith who was fired after video showed she manhandled and kicked a five-year-old student.
The incident happened on February 21 during library time for the five-year-old’s class. Refusing to get in line with her class to leave the library and return to her classroom and regular teacher, the little girl tucked herself into the bottom shelf of a bookcase.
After taking the rest of the class back to their room, Smith can be seen on a library surveillance footage finding the little girl. Smith appears to reprimand the child, expecting her to clear the shelf and return to her class and teacher. However, instead of using her vast education and training in how to deal with young students, Smith chooses to yank the child onto the floor and kick her with her foot.
Getting the girl to her feet, Smith returned her to the classroom. The incident was reported to her homeroom teacher, but school administrators were not made aware of what had happened.
Adding insult to injury, the teacher lies.
The incident would’ve been ignored completely if the little girl hadn’t told her mother what had happened when she was picked up after school, showing her a mark left on her arm. Her mother called the teacher and Smith tried to lie about what had happened.
“I’m not surprised she has some marks on her. She was crawling in the bookshelf. She has a red spot on her arm. And I’m not surprised because she shoved herself into that bookshelf…I mean, she kicked me a couple of times..” Smith rationalized.
There are plenty of alternative ways in which Smith could have handled the five-year-old, had she indeed kicked her. Nowhere in teacher guidelines is returning violence for violence recommended.
However, the kindergartner‘s mother wasn’t happy with Smith’s dismissing and blaming of her child. So she demanded to see the video if it existed. It did exist but took weeks for the school to release it despite their acknowledgment that they had it.
The video showed the real-time events of what happened and school administrators could not ignore Smith’s treatment of one of their students.
“When I saw the video it was heartbreaking, because everything she said, she sat at the same table as me and just lied about everything … she lied to me. She lied to everyone else. She was almost really convincing,” the girl’s mother said in an interview.
Smith was subsequently put on leave and later fired on March 25.
For their part, the Shawnee Mission School District where the incident took place issued a statement saying they are “deeply distressed by the actions shown in the video. We take our responsibility to keep our children safe extremely seriously, and as parents and educators, we are heartbroken whenever a child is not treated with love and respect. As soon as we discovered what happened, we acted to remove the teacher from contact with students, and proceeded immediately to terminate that teacher.”
Hopefully, Crystal Smith either receives therapy and further training before returning to teaching or realizes the instruction of young minds isn’t the career for her before she scars more children.