— A Florida teacher who faces an uncertain job future after being caught on video punching a student last month told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview Monday that she had no choice but to protect herself during the incident.
“I can’t say I regret what happened,’’ said Sandra Hadsock, 64. “I’m really sorry that I was put in a situation where that’s what I felt like I had to do. I had to defend myself from this violent person.’’
Part of the incident in question was caught on another student’s cellphone video camera last month at Central High School in Brooksville, Fla. The short, shaky clip shows the veteran art teacher punching a taller student, cutting his lip. What the clip doesn’t show, say Hadsock and other witnesses, is the student calling Hadsock vulgar names and backing her against a wall.
“The tape only captured a small portion of the whole incident,” which lasted about a minute, Hadsock told Lauer. “That’s the second time he comes at me. The first time, he made physical contact and it was pretty frightening.’’
The student has not been identified and has not made any public statement about the incident. Hadsock said she had not had any prior run-ins with that student but the situation quickly escalated.
“He was clearly dangerous, but I had not had encounters like this before with him,’’ she said. “I was afraid because of the look in his face. It was very vicious and violent-looking, but I’ve been teaching all these years, [and] I never assumed that he would attack me. But he just came on and chest-bumped me.’’
Hadsock was taken to the principal’s office while the authorities were called. She was put in a police car, handcuffed, and taken to the local precinct to have a mug shot taken. She was initially charged with felony child abuse, but the charge was recently dropped when the state attorney’s office determined she had acted in self-defense.
The school placed her on leave immediately after the incident and did not let her attend its graduation on Friday night, marking the first time she has been disciplined in her 23 years in the district.
While any legal charges against her have been dropped, her future as a teacher at Central High School is uncertain.
“Certainly our evaluation and our determination is based on what’s best in the interest of the students in this school district,’’ Hernando County Schools Superintendent Bryan Blavatt told NBC News about Hadsock’s future.
Hadsock, who was voted “Teacher of the Year’’ last year by the students, said she still would like to continue teaching at Central.
“I do want my job back because of the large percentage of students that are wonderful human beings, that are going to grow up to be productive, healthy, happy citizens and love art,’’ she said. “[They] love me, and I love them in return. It’s a small faction of students that’s making it so bad all across the nation.’’
She still wants to return despite feeling that she did not get support from the school administration in the immediate aftermath of the incident, in which she was cuffed and put in a squad car.
“I don’t know what position they considered themselves in, but I felt really strung out there except for my union representative,’’ she said.
By watching the video, it also seemed like she did not have the support of the class during the incident, but she said that is misleading. One student can be heard in the background saying, “He didn’t do anything. You can’t punch him in the face. You can’t even call him stupid.’’
“That one person was very vocal, but she was not in a position to see that he had made contact,’’ Hadsock said. “Students who were over to the side who saw it, wrote that in their statements, which is why the state’s attorney looked at their statements, the ones who could see, and looked at the video and determined that this could be self-defense.’’
The hope in the end for Hadsock is that the school administration reaches the same conclusion as the state attorney’s office and allows her to return to her job.
“We’re hoping that the school district recognizes the Teacher of the Year ... and recognizes that she has a right to defend herself,’’ said Hadsock’s attorney, Ty Tison, who appeared with her on TODAY.
Tison feels the incident is a reflection of a growing trend of insubordination against teachers nationwide.
“I’m hoping that the school district realizes that you don’t lose your God-given and your statutory right to defend yourself just because of the status of your life of being a teacher,’’ said Tison. “This is a profession that was honored at one time, and now we’re really losing control in the schools.’’