BRANDON, Fla. (CBS Tampa) — A local middle school teacher is on paid leave and under investigation amid allegations of abuse during a spelling lesson.

According to student reports and parental complaints, Burns Middle School teacher Anna Garrett used sandpaper during class last Wednesday, making the students write out words they had gotten wrong on their previous spelling tests into the coarse surface until their fingers bled.

“We had to trace letters like ‘I’ and ‘J’,” 11-year-old Josh Sommer told WFTS-TV, adding that the students had to trace each wrong word into the sandpaper five times. “[B]y the end of the time, my whole table was bleeding.”

Students reportedly complained about their injuries to Garrett, who responded by telling them to keep quiet and resume their work.

Despite their discomfort, the students in the sixth grade class did continue with the task, according to Josh.

He explained, “I didn’t want to get yelled at by my teacher.”

The station learned that Garrett has been placed on a paid administrative leave pending a further investigation into the incident.

School spokesman Steve Hegarty said that he doubts the investigation will turn up any intent from Garrett – who has reportedly been teaching in the school district for almost 30 years – to hurt the children.

“There are some students complaining that it hurt their fingers and we don’t think that’s a good way to learn,” he said. “I don’t have any reason to believe that she was trying to abuse kids, but the outcome was not a good one.”

He added, “If kids hurt their fingers, that’s not a good thing.”

For parents, though, the fact that the students were injured is bad enough, regardless of intent.

“This is the only instance where he has been injured, and this will be the last. Makes me sick to my stomach – it’s hurtful,” Josh’s mother, Darleanea Sommer, told WFTS-TV. “My child was being hurt at school … where they’re supposed to be taken care of.”

Garrett – who has used unorthodox teaching methods in the past, according to Sommer – will reportedly be prohibited from the classroom until the investigation is finished. Once completed, the district will make a decision as to whether or not the teacher has a future in their schools.


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