HARRIMAN, Tenn. -- A kindergarten teacher who reportedly told students to encircle a classmate, call him a pig and make pig noises because the boy was messy, received a one-day unpaid suspension and a letter of reprimand.
The incident involved Debbie Hayes, an educator at Bowers Elementary School here who has taught kindergarten for 38 years.
Toni McGriff, director of Roane County Schools, called the March 16 incident "simply unbelievable."
In her reprimand letter, McGriff told Hayes she was "appalled with the actions in this situation."
"It's a black eye on the profession," McGriff said. "It's a black eye on our schools."
Another educator walked into Hayes' classroom March 16 and saw kindergartners encircling their crying classmate.
"The students in the circle were 'oinking' and making pig sounds at the little boy," the reprimand states.
The educator who witnessed the incident told Principal Candace Lett that afternoon. Hayes and Lett met the next day in McGriff's office to discuss the episode.
During that meeting, Hayes said she was "tired of the student's messiness," according to the reprimand.
Hayes, according to the letter, had repeatedly warned the child to be neater but on March 16 told him, "Your area looks like a pig sty. Oink. Oink."
Students in the classroom told authorities that Hayes told them to encircle the child "and call him a pig and make pig noises," according to the reprimand.
Hayes' one-day suspension from her job, which pays $44,283 annually, went into effect March 18.
McGriff in the reprimand told Hayes she would be allowed to report to her classroom that morning and apologize to the students.
"Hopefully, a heartfelt apology will have some mitigating effect on the damage that was done," McGriff's letter states. McGriff said she assumed the apology was given.
McGriff said the school principal offered to transfer the child who was taunted to another classroom, but the mother declined.
(Bob Fowler is a reporter for The Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee