A former Austin-area substitute teacher is facing criminal charges after onlookers captured video footage of her allegedly striking a student multiple times.
High school students gasped and shouted in the background of a video showing Tiffani Lankford, 32, punching a 16-year-old sophomore at Lehman High School in Kyle, Texas, earlier this month, according to KXAN.
Prior to the altercation, students had been laughing and joking together, a witness who wished to remain anonymous told CBS News.
The witness said they believed the substitute teacher may have been aggravated by the jokes.
Tensions in the classroom escalated when Lankford began cursing at the students, at which point the victim directed the teacher not to speak to her that way, Paul Batrice, an attorney representing the 16-year-old’s family, told The Associated Press.
However, specific information about the cause of the incident has been confirmed by police.
The footage appears to depict the 16-year-old girl lashing out toward the teacher, at which point the teacher punched back multiple times.
Finally, the teacher can be seen throwing the student to the floor, stomping on her head.
The girl’s classmates then alerted other adults at the school about what had happened, the Hays Consolidated Independent School District said in a statement.
As a result, the substitute teacher was removed from the classroom and taken to answer questions before law enforcement officers.
The victim has special needs, according to CBS.
She reportedly suffers from epilepsy and was taken to the emergency room by her father after the incident.
There, she was treated for “severe injuries,” Batrice told CBS.
“I saw the video, and I started crying because it’s my teammate,” Samara Valdez, a fellow student who plays basketball with the victim, told KXAN.
The high school released a statement informing students and parents that Lankford had been fired and that the school was cooperating with authorities.
“We take the safety and security of our students seriously,” Lehman Principal Karen Zuniga told KXAN. “We took swift action when this incident occurred and will do everything necessary to protect our students.”
WARNING: The following video contains violent images that some readers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
“There is absolutely no excuse or circumstance that can justify what you see unfold on the video,” school officials added in a statement to CBS.
KXAN reported that Lankford has been employed by the school district since Aug. 30, and has worked directly in classrooms on 18 occasions during that time.
“This is unacceptable to say the least, and we will demand justice to the fullest extend of the law to enact the change so obviously necessary,” Batrice said in a statement to the AP.
The Hays County Sheriff’s Office told KXAN the former substitute was arrested on Friday and has been charged with aggravated assault.
She is currently out on bond.
If convicted, Lankford could face up to 20 years in prison.
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