First grade parents shocked by teacher's assistant caught on tape

By Rebecca Powers – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Rebecca and Mark Stabler say their 8-year-old son Gabe has come home from Jeff Davis Elementary in tears every day since school began in August.

So, they put a tape recorder in his book bag to hear what goes on in his first grade class.

The parents said that was on December 10th. When the recording was brought home that night, the Stablers were shocked to hear how assistant teacher Mershelia Williams spoke to the small children. They say her tone and grammar were deplorable.

"She's messed with the wrong kid, I'm sorry, cause I'm not going lay down," Rebecca Stabler said. "I'm not going stand idly by and let my child be treated like this, it's not going to happen."

Ms. Williams: "Where this go?"

Child: "I colored that yesterday."

Ms. Williams: "It shouldn't of got changed at all, that ain't nothing to be proud of."

A few seconds later, a child the Stablers identified as Makayla Massey could be heard asking for help on an assignment.

Makayla: "Ms. Williams, I don't know how to do this."

Ms. Williams: "Go sit down, I'm working right now, you're not gonna be walking up to me every 5 minutes asking me, telling me you don't know how to do something."

In front of her, to the class, Ms Williams is overheard taking to another child about Maykala.

Ms. Williams:"No, do your work. She ain't goin to be sittin up in here wanting somebody to help her every time she, cause she don't wanna apply herself to her work. You know how to go in that cafeteria and enjoy that lunch and breakfast every morning."

Maykala's mother, Jennifer Hammack, told WLOX News she is, "Very upset that my child had to be bullied by an adult who is suppose to be teaching her. Yes, my daughter has a weight problem, one that she is already very self conscious of."

On the tape hidden in Gabe's book bag, with 15 first graders in one room, they are surprisingly quiet enough for you to hear Ms. Williams speaking. The Stablers say it's because they are terrified instead of nurtured.

Rebecca Stabler said, "I will do whatever needs to be done to get this woman to not have a job here. This is ridiculous. You don't treat kids like this."

And all of this is in the first 28 and a half minutes of school. As the Stablers continued listening to the tape, they recognized the voice of their son Gabe, who is hard of hearing. He was asking for instructions on a work sheet.

Gabe: "I don't know what to do on this."

Ms. Williams: "Well, you'd better find out. It's not hard. Nobody else didn't have to ask no questions bout it. You know what to do, you just want somebody to just sit there and pet you about it, but I ain't gonna do it. You know how to go in that lunch room and tear that food up every day. Ain't nothing hard bout that sheet."

A holiday and dates worksheet seemed to have many of the first graders stumped.

This is what the teaching assistant is heard saying to two children who didn't understand.

Ms. Williams: "You gotta put all these dates on here on that side. The dates don't go over here, this is holidays. And this is dates! Holidays! Dates! If it's a holiday it goes over here, if it's a date it goes over here. And all the lines need to be filled. Why is that so, why is that so difficult?"

The tape indicates one child apparently didn't understand what the words he was copying meant. This is what he was told.

Ms. Williams: "You don't need to know what it say. Just write it on the line".

The Stablers said they were told by school officials, Ms. Williams was placed on leave with pay during an investigation that started December 11th.

On December 18th, the teaching assistant confirmed she was called into the school district office and fired.

Biloxi School Superintendent Dr. Paul Tisdale, who could not confirm that, said, "It is an expectation in Biloxi Public Schools that employees communicate with students, parents, and staff in a professional manner. When these expectations are not met and are brought to the attention of administrators, the facts are checked to determine an appropriate course of administrative action. We can not comment publicly on personnel matters."

Before this story aired, Ms. Williams came to the WLOX Studios and listened to the tape. Wednesday morning, her attorney Alvin Chase also listened to the recording. They both emphasized that until this incident, Ms. Williams had never been reprimanded by the Biloxi School District and gave this statement.

"I apologize to the student or students that felt I was rude to them. I also apologize to the parents or guardians of those students if my actions or conduct in the presence of their child or children on that day appeared or led them to conclude that I was being less than professional. I further apologize to the BPS District. If my temperament caused any hardship to a student or parent, I apologize. My only intention ultimately working as a teacher assistant was to carry out my duties in a matter of excellence and serve the students."

Her attorney did confirm to WLOX News that Ms. Mershelia Williams has been terminated from the Biloxi School District.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.