RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Three years after a child with special needs was dragged down the hallway of Walter Hill Elementary School in Rutherford County, Tennessee, sheriff’s officials have released surveillance footage of the incident.
In late May, the Rutherford County School Board voted 4-2 to terminate principal Helen Campbell, citing unprofessional conduct and neglect of duty.
Surveillance video allegedly shows Campbell and teacher Bonnie Marlar with a non-compliant student in the office. That leads to the two dragging the child by the feet down a hallway of nearly 600 feet to a separate room for isolation.
“Mrs. Campbell was an educator forced to make a decision with a student who was in a situation where the behavioral history indicated that a problem was coming, unfortunately, instead of meeting with Mrs. Campbell and trying to learn why she relocated the student, what our Director of Schools did is look at a video, call police and have her arrested,” said Scott Kimberly, Campbell’s lawyer.
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It’s important to note the Rutherford County Board of Education policy states that a child may be restrained or relocated to another location when such relocation is necessary for the safety of the student or others. Even so, board director Bill Spurlock said Campbell failed to report the restraint and isolation of the student and allegedly attempted to tamper with and or destroy security camera footage from the school system.
According to the sheriff’s office, video surveillance shows Campbell going into the library where the video server is stored. Other images shared with Nexstar’s WKRN show portions of video that are distorted and deleted.
“The reason this has what I would consider evidentiary inconsistencies is that the state managed to recover all the videos Mrs. Campbell managed to allegedly delete of this incident, stepping aside from the fact that Mrs. Campbell does not have the technological capacity to access the server or delete these things,” Kimberly said.
All of this has led to a lost job and criminal charges including misdemeanor child abuse and tampering with evidence.
“To understand how this criminal case started, Mrs. Campbell was arrested and charged with the misdemeanor charge of child abuse. We had a preliminary hearing through which the state offered evidence through their lead detective and in that hearing the state failed to introduce a single piece of evidence related to this child suffering any injury of any kind from this incident,” Kimberly said.
The original charges were ultimately dropped, but Campbell would later be indicted by a grand jury on the same charges. She accepted a plea agreement, though she maintains her innocence.
The plea also ensures she will have no long-term criminal record.
The next step is an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge. If Campbell doesn’t like that decision she can, and according to her lawyer, will appeal.
For now, she remains suspended from employment.