Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1998

Teacher and mom charged with battery
By Michael Martinez

One year after a Smyth Elementary School teacher made national headlines by showing the video "Striptease" to 5th and 7th graders, the South Side school was at the center of two battery complaints Thursday:

A music teacher allegedly used drumsticks to hit a 9-year-old boy in the arm this week, authorities said, and the boy's mother then marched to the school the next morning and allegedly smacked the teacher's face.

On Thursday, the teacher, Ernest Dawkins, 44, of the South Side, was charged with misdemeanor battery, authorities said. Police said the mother, whom they would not identify, also was charged with misdemeanor battery.

Dawkins will be reassigned to the school board's central offices on Pershing Road pending the outcome of a school board investigation into the alleged hitting incident, a routine procedure in alleged child abuse cases, said Blondean Davis, the board's chief of schools and regions. Said school board CEO Paul Vallas: "If the charges are upheld, we will also move to fire him."

The sequence of events began about 9 a.m. Wednesday when the teacher allegedly struck the boy in the left arm in the presence of other schoolchildren during a music class, officials said. The boy's arm was bruised, police said.

On Thursday morning, the boy's mother went to Smyth School, 1059 W. 13th St., and struck the teacher in the face in apparent retaliation, police and school spokesmen said.

Last May, William Ferguson, 55, a computer lab teacher at Smyth, allowed about 25 students to watch a video that includes partial nudity. The children's regular teacher was not in class that day. The school board fired Ferguson, a non-tenured teacher, Vallas said.

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