When 5-year-old Hailey Turner’s parents asked her why she had an angry red mark on her face after school one day last month, the kindergartner told them a story that left them shocked and mad.
“She said her teacher hit her and told her not to tell anyone,” Hailey’s mom, Ciara Morgan, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “She said she’ll bring her an LOL doll if she doesn’t tell anyone.”
Two weeks later, Morgan, 23, is even angrier. She claims the Memphis school district gave the teacher a slap on the wrist—a two-day suspension—and transferred Hailey to a different classroom when she returned.
“It’s wrong,” she said. “Why does my daughter have to leave her comfort zone? They should have put her in a different school.”
The incident happened Jan. 25 at Cummings Elementary. Morgan said Hailey’s aunt got a call from the teacher, saying she had put some ointment on her face because she kept scratching her eczema.
The teacher, Morgan said, suggested Hailey might be having an allergic reaction so her parents rushed to the school, where they were surprised to see what looked more like a bruise than a scratch.
Hailey told them that the class was having computer time, and when it was over, she informed the teacher about a misbehaving student.
“And the teacher said, ‘No tattle tale,’ and got a ruler out of her desk and popped her with it,” Morgan said.
Corporal punishment is not banned in Tennessee schools. But Morgan said she and Hailey’s father were furious and demanded to see school higher-ups, who helped them call the Memphis Police Department and the Department of Child Services.
According to the Commercial Appeal, which first reported on the incident, the district opened an investigation but was unable to substantiate Hailey’s allegation.
However, it determined that the teacher had hit Hailey on the hand to “redirect” her and decided that warranted a two-day suspension and further investigation by state licensing authorities, the Appeal reported.
The teacher returned to the classroom on Feb. 8, Morgan said. And when Hailey’s dad went to pick her up from school, she found she had been transferred to a different class with no notice from the district.
The family then decided to take Hailey out of Cummings and transfer her to a different school.
Morgan said the worst thing about the situation was that Hailey is “feeling guilty” for saying anything.
“She keeps saying, ‘I didn’t want to snitch on her and get her in trouble.’ She felt like she was in the wrong.”
Shelby County Schools did not respond to an email from The Daily Beast, and the district office would not put through a call to the superintendent. A phone number for the teacher could not be found.