PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

May 23, 2013

Vote goes against teacher

Gunner must present her case on assault accusation

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Teachers, students and friends alike rose as one, silently lifting homemade signs that displayed one word: “Ruby.”

The Port Arthur Teachers Association, along with friends and former students, gathered at Thursday’s Port Arthur Independent School District board of trustees meeting to send a silent message to the board that would determine the fate of Ruby Gunner, the Lee Elementary teacher accused of assaulting a student on April 5.

Melissa Taylor had a sign of her own, one with a much more somber message — her 11-year-old son, covered in mottled black and blue bruises that resulted from a physical encounter with Gunner.

“That’s not self-defense,” Taylor said. “That’s abuse. All this” — she gestured to the “Ruby” signs — “is supporting child abuse.”

Gunner, who was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on May 17, has staunchly maintained that any injuries she inflicted upon the student only occurred in self-defense.

That is not the case, Taylor said. She said that Gunner grabbed her son as he attempted to leave her classroom, then pushed him. The student kicked Gunner in retaliation before running to the counselor’s office. Later, after he had entered the classroom of another teacher, Trudy Goza, Gunner rushed in and threw the student to the floor, where she began choking him.

“He said, ‘You’re killing me,’” Taylor said. “There were marks on his throat.”

The board voted 4-2 to suspend Gunner without pay. However, Gunner will have the opportunity to present her case to the board before that decision is final, PAISD attorney Melody Chappell said.

Family friend Chrystal Montilla, who was visiting the house when the student came home from school after his encounter with Gunner, was dissatisfied with the severity of Gunner’s punishment.

“I’d like to see her fired,” Montilla said. “Teachers aren’t supposed to do this to children.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA