Palm Bay teacher fired for biting special-needs student

Brevard County School Board votes to fire Karen Williams

Karen Williams.

PALM BAY, Fla. – A Palm Bay teacher has been fired for biting one of her special-needs students at Columbia Elementary in 2015.

According to News 6 partner Florida Today, the Brevard County School Board voted to fire Karen Williams, a third-grade teacher at Columbia, at a meeting Tuesday night, effectively canceling her professional service contract with the district. The board did not discuss the decision at the meeting.

Williams was placed on paid administrative leave on Dec. 3, 2015, after she bit one of her students on the back. The child told investigators that Williams grabbed him and put him in a "bear hug," so he tried to get away. To get free, the student bit Williams on her right hand and then Williams bit him on his back "for like a minute," at which point the student bit Williams again on the hand, according to a police report.

An eyewitness heard the student "screaming hysterically" over the front office phone, and when she got to the classroom, she found him crying, with an oval-shaped red mark on his back.

Students in the classroom at the time couldn't say whether they saw Williams bite their classmate, but said they did see her pull him into a tight hug and heard the student yelling "My back, my back."

Williams denied the allegations, but police found an adult-sized bite mark on the child's back below the left shoulder blade, as well as fingernail marks on his right side.

Williams was arrested by Palm Bay police on Dec. 10, 2015, and charged with child abuse, a felony in the state of Florida. The charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor for culpable negligence that inflicts injury, and Williams was found guilty Jan. 27.

Until that point, Williams had been regularly rated a "highly effective" teacher in her annual evaluations.

Under a professional service contract, as opposed to the annual contracts that are used now, teachers can be dismissed only for unsatisfactory evaluations, gross insubordination, willful neglect of duties or conviction of a moral crime.