- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2001

A Prince George's County, Md., math teacher has been arrested and charged with second-degree assault after a scuffle with another teacher in front of a roomful of students, county police said.

Beverly Burton, 30, assaulted another teacher at G. Gardner Shugart Middle School in Temple Hills, where they both work, police said.

Miss Burton faces a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

A preliminary investigation showed that Miss Burton struck another female teacher with a fist after an exchange of words, said Cpl. Robert Clark of the Prince George's County police.

The victim received scratches to her face, forehead, neck and chest. She was treated at the school's nursing station, Cpl. Clark said.

Police said the fight broke out in front of a classroom of middle school students.

Classes were running as usual yesterday and no children were involved in the incident, a spokesman for the school said.

Police and school sources said information on what set off the incident would be available only after further investigation.

Robin Breedon, a spokeswoman for Prince George's County public schools, said Miss Burton probably would be removed from her teaching job as a result of the incident.

"She is locked up right now, and that is all we know at this point," Miss Breedon said.

School board members and administrators said the incident indicates the high level of stress among teachers working in the county's troubled school system.

"Teachers work hard under pressure and are not being paid enough money. Nerves are frayed," said school board member James Henderson, District 2.

"You get what you pay for," Mr. Henderson said, adding that teachers need a good working environment.

Right now there are no programs to assist school system employees in dealing with stress, he said, but officials are considering bringing in a stress-management expert.

"I thought it was a good idea … to prevent the stress from blowing up," Mr. Henderson said.

A school source who asked not to be identified compared the situation with that in California about 20 years ago, when a study found that teachers there had stress levels that matched those of soldiers who fought in Vietnam.

Mr. Henderson said the incident also sets a negative example for the schoolchildren.

"We suspend children for fighting, but after something like this, how can we tell them not to fight? It is incongruous to have teachers fighting," he said.

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