PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 12, 2014

PA teacher found not guilty

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

BEAUMONT — Cheers erupted in Judge John Stevens’ courtroom at the Jefferson County Courthouse Wednesday when a jury found veteran Port Arthur teacher Ruby Gunner not guilty of injury to a child.

Gunner, 63, stopped frequently to embrace friends and supporters as she made her way out of the courtroom following the trial.

“God is good,” she said, beaming at attorney Paul Darrow.

Prior to the verdict, the fourth grade teacher at Robert E. Lee Elementary faced the prospect of 10 years in prison after she was indicted in May 2013 on one count of injury to a child, in connection with an April incident in which she was accused of assaulting an 11-year-old student.

The student testified Tuesday that Gunner blocked the door when he tried to leave her classroom to attend a parade in the hallway, then pushed him after he attempted to shove past her several times. He kicked her in retaliation, then ran to the counselor’s office, where he was sent to teacher Trudy Goza’s room for his next class.

The child said that Gunner confronted him in Goza’s classroom, grabbing his arms. He kicked her again in the stomach, stumbled and fell to the floor. He testified that Gunner then straddled him and began choking him.

Photographs presented by the prosecution showed scratches above the boy’s right eye and below his left — the result, Darrow said during his closing argument, of Gunner’s attempt to subdue him.

“This is a great day, not just for Ruby Gunner, but for teachers everywhere,” Darrow said after the trial. “The verdict sends a very important message to teachers that they don’t have to walk around afraid.”

Gunner, who opted not to take the stand in her own defense, said that she was always confident that the trial would prove her innocence.

“Despite the efforts of conspirators against me, I knew the truth would come out,” she said after the trial. “It’s important that we tell the truth. It would have been an awful thing if the students had seen a lie.”

The Port Arthur Independent School District board of trustees voted in January to terminate Gunner after 40 years with the district. PAISD Superintendent Mark Porterie said in a statement that the district intends to proceed with the termination.

“The district will continue to ensure the safety of all students in its care through adherence of district policies by employees,” Porterie said.

Gunner criticized the district’s investigation of the incident, referring to PAISD attorney Melody Chappell and former superintendent Johnny Brown by name.

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA