- Associated Press - Thursday, April 26, 2018

ST. MARTIN, Miss. (AP) - A fired Mississippi teacher has pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of contributing to the neglect of a child and simple assault.

Footage from a 2014 video shows Kerri Ann Nettles, then a St. Martin Middle School special education teacher, telling a 14-year-old student to be quiet and shoving a rag into the girl’s mouth on a school bus, The Sun Herald reported Thursday.

The student has a chromosome disorder affecting her speech, behavior and development.

In the video, which was provided to The Sun Herald by the student’s family’s attorney Michael Crosby, Nettles is heard threatening to kick the student off the bus.

“You want me to leave you again?” Nettles says. “You want this bus to leave? Do you remember when we left you? We are going to pull over and leave you.”



Nettles pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges. A judge fined her $3,000 and suspended a 30-day jail sentence.

In a separate civil lawsuit, Nettles is also accused of stuffing a rag in the girl’s mouth and shutting her inside a closet.

“This is very unbelievable to think that this can happen to a special-needs child and she gets nothing but a slap on the wrist, is given a fine and sent on her way,” the student’s grandfather, Thomas Pearce, said of Nettles.

A second video from 2015 shows the student having a tantrum as Nettles and former St. Martin bus driver Antioinette James Raymond grow more agitated. Raymond can be heard saying, “When I stop this bus, you’re going to be sorry.”

“You better keep her away from me,” Raymond said. “I’m going to kill her. I swear I’ll choke her.”

The student is seen banging on the bus window and yelling for her grandfather and great-grandmother.

Later in the video, Raymond walks back to the student and sits on her to keep her still, saying “Now, go ahead. Move, big girl.”

Raymond has been indicted on misdemeanor charges of contributing to delinquency, neglect and abuse of a child and simple assault. She has a July court date. It was not immediately clear whether she is represented by an attorney.

A separate civil suit is pending against the Jackson County School District and St. Martin Middle School Principal Stephanie Gruich and other unnamed defendants.

School officials reportedly saw Nettles’ and Raymond’s behavior while going through the bus camera’s footage to find something else. Both women were then fired.

After the Sun Herald report, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley Collins called the video “disturbing.”

“However, this incident is not an isolated one, but is part of a larger issue across the state,” Collins said in a statement.

Collins said students with disabilities are six times more likely than their non-disabled peers to be physically restrained at school. And students of color with disabilities are twice as likely to be restrained or secluded.

Restraint and seclusion practices violate students’ rights to nondiscrimination in education, Collins said.

“Mississippi must do more to ensure protection of our children, especially our most vulnerable children, by passing legislation inclusive of proper implementation and accountability provisions that keeps our students safe,” Collins said.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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