Van Buren Teacher On Paid Leave After Slapping Allegations
VAN BUREN (KFSM) – The Van Buren teacher accused of hitting two students in the span of three months is on paid leave and will have until next month to appeal her recommended firing.
An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday in Crawford County for Denan Cagle, a science teacher at Northridge Middle School, on suspicion of third-degree misdemeanor battery. Van Buren police said they have not yet received the arrest warrant. Those usually take a few days to appear in the police department system, they said.
Once police receive the arrest warrant, they will contact Cagle and give her the opportunity to turn herself in, according to the Van Buren Police Department.
Supt. Kerry Schneider sent a letter to Cagle on Feb. 2 concerning an alleged incident last month, in which the teacher is accused of slapping a student on the shoulder so hard that it left a red mark and a handprint. In the letter, the superintendent notifies the teacher he is recommending to the School Board that she be fired.
The School Board has taken no action yet because Cagle has until 30 days after the letter’s date to appeal the recommendation to the board, according to the Van Buren School District. School district employees who are in that 30-day appeal period are placed on paid administrative leave, Schneider told 5NEWS on Thursday.
Schneider said the school district has no other comment because he is limited by law as to what he can say.
Van Buren police said Jan. 29 they were investigating Cagle following allegations she struck a student on his arm during class. Detectives later forwarded the case to prosecutors, who decided this week to charge Cagle in connection with the incident. A police incident report was also filed in a separate case from last November, in which a student and his classmates said Cagle slapped him in the face.
School district documents state Cagle was temporarily suspended in the November incident. More recent documents from the district indicate Cagle admitted to the superintendent that she did hit the two students.
The mother of the 13-year-old boy who was allegedly hit in January told 5NEWS the teacher came up behind him Jan. 28 and slapped him on the arm hard enough to leave a red mark and a hand print. She said children in the class reported the incident to the school’s principal the next day. The mother said she received a call from the principal the same day, notifying her of the incident.
“The principal called me and told me that our son was hit by a teacher, and so we went up there, and they said that the girl was flicking him with a pencil, and he was flicking her with a pencil, and then the teacher came up behind him, and slapped him in the shoulder and told him to quit,” Stephanie Covey told 5NEWS last month during the investigation.
Covey`s son Trevor is an eighth-grader at Northridge Middle School.
“I was like did you just hit me? I turned where she was. She said ‘Yes, it was an instinct, I didn’t mean to. Please don’t tell the office. I’m already in trouble’ because she had done it before; she did it to another student,” Trevor Covey said.
(Click here to see video and read more about the family speaking out)
The January case was referred to the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Shortly after the allegations went public, another mother told 5NEWS Cagle was being investigated by DHS for a similar incident from three months ago involving a separate student. That incident was the slap noted by the police incident report from November.
The Van Buren School District handbook on the district’s website outlines several types of discipline students may face for inappropriate behavior, none of which include physical punishment. A cached version of the handbook on a web search shows a page titled “4.3.8 — Corporal Punishment”.
The page states Van Buren officials may use physical force and “swats with a paddle” to counter “excessive” student behavior. That page does not appear in the current handbook. It is not clear when that page was taken out.
Several attempts to contact Cagle through the school district, telephone and email have been unsuccessful. A 5NEWS reporter also went to a home listed as belonging to Cagle in order to get her side of the story. The person who answered said he had never heard of her.