The Commercial Appeal, February 25, 2001

Strip-search of teacher prompts legislation

Jackson, Miss.(AP) ---- Legislation that would protect teachers from arrest and possible humiliation stemming from classroom complaints has been added to a bill on the floor of the Mississippi House following an incident an incident where a north Mississippi teacher was strip-searched.

A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

The House proposal would require a circuit court hearing before a teacher could be arrested for conduct at school.

"All this does is establish a policy that teachers have authority in the classroom," said Rep. Steven Holland (D-Tupelo).

Holland and Rep. Tommy Reynolds (D-Water Valley) said the amendment is a response to the situation involving Lawhon Elementary School teacher Kaen Johnson.

Johnson, is a third-grade teacher, facing a misdemeanor simple assault charge for disciplining a student.

She was striped-searched by deputies after a parent complained that Johnson "purposely caused bodily injury to an 8-year-old minor child by grabbing her cheeks, pressing them very hard, forcing her head up."

The Tupelo School District investigated the complaint and found Johnson did nothing wrong.

But the parent filed a compliant Nov. 21. The warrant based on the compliant was not served until more than two months later at which time Johnson voluntary reported to the Tupelo Police Department and then was booked into the Lee County/ Adult Jail on Feb. 14.

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