UPDATE: Tara Harris’ husband Dale Harris told WAVY-TV that the allegations against his wife are untrue.
“It’s a lie… an outright lie,” he said.
Stephanie Bennett, the mother of the 10-year-old that Harris is accused of assaulting, alleges in court documents that Harris had been teaching the Muslim hand gesture for “power and strength.”
Dale Harris told WAVY-TV that the school first alerted his wife to the claims that she was teaching Muslim culture in her class.
“She said, ‘Dale, I’ve been accused of teaching the children Muslim hand gestures, playing Muslim music and praying five times a day,’” he said.
Dale said his wife is not a Muslim.
“This is defamation of character by people who she doesn’t know, she’s never seen, and Chesapeake city schools is not standing behind her,” he said.
Chesapeake Public Schools has declined to comment on the case. A spokesperson said Harris has been suspended and her pay is being put into an escrow account.
As PilotOnline.com points out, “the officials who could either support the claims, or debunk them, are saying nothing.”
TheBlaze first reported about a Virginia teacher who has been charged with simple assault after a parent accused her of injuring her daughter’s hand while forcing the class to learn an “Islamic hand sign.”
Tara Harris, who joined Butts Intermediate School in September as a fifth-grade learning disabilities special education teacher, was charged on Oct. 11 and released on a summons, according to the Chesapeake Police Department. Police confirmed that Harris was charged in connection with an incident that occured at Butts Road Intermediate School but did not provide any additional information.
Stephanie Bennett says her daughter came home from school with a cut on her hand and a swolen finger after Harris yanked and twisted her hand into an Islamic hand sign because she didn’t get it right. She says her daughter’s skin got caught on the metal wire of her notebook.
Bennet provided pictures of her daughter making the “Islamic hand signs” that Harris allegedly made students learn. The images also appear to show a small cut on the knuckle of the 10-year-old’s right index finger and from the incident that occured nearly two weeks ago. The mother says the tip of the girl’s finger is also red and swolen from Harris twisting it.
Another parent, Nita Redditt, backed up Bennett’s claims after she says she talked to her son.
Chesapeake School Board member Harry Murphy told TheBlaze on Thursday that the adminstration will not be able to comment on Harris’s case because it is a “personnel issue.” Murphy refused to even confirm or deny that Harris had been terminated from the school system.
However, he did say every person is innocent until proven guilty and should Harris appeal the school board’s decision, presumably to let her go, the Chesapeake Board of Education would be forced to be the “final jury” in a sense.
Despite making calls to all nine school board members and Superintendent Dr. James Roberts, Murphy is the only person who has responded.
According to the minutes from the Chesapeake School Board’s Oct. 8 meeting, members held a “closed meeting” about “personnel” involving “consideration of employment, assignment, appointment, promotion, demotion, salaries, disciplining or resignation of publi officers, appointees, or employees of any public body.”
Harris’ next-door neighbor, William Moore, told PilotOnline.com that Harris is not a Muslim. “They’re the nicest people you ever wanted to meet,” he said.
“Ahmed Noor, a trustee at the Mosque and Islamic Center of Hampton Roads in Hampton, said there are no hand gestures in the religion of Islam; however as different cultures practice the religion, there could be a culture that both practices Islam and uses some sort of hand gesture,” PilotOnline.com reports.
WAVY-TV has also reported on the issue following TheBlaze’s exclusive report.
Additional attempts to contact Harris were unsuccessful. The teacher’s side of the story is the one big piece still missing in this incident.
Harris is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.