When a mother noticed marks on her 5-year-old daughter’s body, the girl’s teacher said she wasn’t surprised, blaming the kindergarten’s behavior for the injuries the child sustained. But, the mom demanded to see the video, and it changed everything.
Crystal Smith, a teacher at Bluejacket-Flint Elementary School in Shawnee, Kansas, was quick to explain away a red mark on an unnamed 5-year-old student’s arm when she was confronted by the girl’s mother. The kindergartener told a much different story, though, saying she was abused by her teacher. Making matters worse, the mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, claimed the school did nothing about it.
When the unnamed mother picked up her 5-year-old daughter from school on a Thursday and asked how her day went, her daughter, not the school, told her that she was grabbed and kicked by her teacher during class. “I don’t like my teacher. She’s really mean. She hit me on my arm,” the little girl told her mom, who then found a large red mark on her arm.
Troubled, the mother tried to call the school’s principal. When she couldn’t get through, she drove back to the school to find out what happened. According to the mom, her little girl said she had already told another teacher about it, but the school ignored the complaint. So, the mother quickly decided to record all of the conversations with her daughter’s teachers and the school district staff, and she’s glad she did.
In a recording captured by the mother, her daughter’s IEP teacher admitted that the student told her that Crystal Smith had hit her. “[The 5-year-old] did mention to me, ‘My teacher, like hit me.’ I asked her what happened and she said she touched her on her arm, but I wasn’t there so I’m not sure what happened,” the IEP teacher said.
“So, 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,” Crystal Smith, the teacher accused of hitting the 5-year-old girl, alleged, blaming the child for causing the mark to her arm when the mom met with her.
“I mean, she kicked me a couple of times. She was reaching over into the bookshelf pulling books out and there were those metal, metal book divider things,” Smith furthered. “I said, ‘Don’t. We can’t do that.’ So, I put myself kind of standing around her so that if she does throw something she wouldn’t break something.”
Unfortunately for Smith, the entire incident was caught on video, which would only be discovered after the mom sensed something didn’t seem quite right with the teacher’s explanation and decided to push for more information. The day after the unnamed mother met with Smith, the school confirmed the video existed, but it was more than a week before the mom finally got to view it. Nothing could have prepared her for what she’d see, however.
“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,” the mother explained, referring to the excuses she had been given by Crystal Smith. “She lied to me. She lied to everyone else. She was almost really convincing.” Video doesn’t lie, though.
Crystal Smith described a violent 5-year-old thrashing around, throwing books, and kicking her teacher, but the video only showed an upset little girl, who refused to get in line with the rest of her class. Frantic about an art project they just finished and worried hers was lost or stepped on, the child crawled into a bookshelf while the other students left the library before she is found by Smith.
Smith grabbed the child by the arm and dragged her to the floor. Then, she scanned the room for witnesses before kicking the 5-year-old in the back when the teacher was sure no one is looking. “I can’t really even put it into words. I hurt for my child, and I was just angry that someone could do that,” the mother said.
Worried about her daughter’s safety as well as that of other students, the mom confronted administration. “I said, ‘OK, had my child not said anything to me, you were just going to go behind closed doors and speak to everyone else, and if something came up then you’d let me know? But had she not said anything to me at all, I may not have ever known,” she recalled.
Smith was put on leave pending an investigation before being officially terminated. “The Shawnee Mission School District was deeply distressed by the actions shown in the video,” the district said in a statement. “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.”
Is termination good enough? This teacher kicked a child in the back in a public place. That’s assault if you or I did the same thing to anyone, let alone a child. But, it will be up to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether charges should be pressed after reviewing the case. Hopefully, they make the right decision and make an example out of Crystal Smith.
Parents should be able to send their children to school without fearing that they will become the victim of violence — especially at the hands of their teachers. Kicking a child in her back isn’t going to teach her to respect authority or follow directions. If an adult can’t handle an upset 5-year-old having a minor fit, they have no place working with children in schools.