PALM BAY, Florida – A Florida teacher who made national headlines for biting a special needs student was punished with a two-year paid vacation from Brevard Public Schools, a $1,000 fine from the Florida Department of Education, and seven months of probation from the courts.
58-year-old Karen Renee Williams will now be able to continue to teach in the Sunshine State after the Florida Department of Education gave her a Letter of Reprimand rather than revoking her teaching certificate in a Final Administrative Order filed in December 2017.
Williams was charged with Felony Child Abuse after she bit one of her third grade students at Columbia Elementary in Palm Bay, Florida.
She was later found guilty of a lesser misdemeanor charge of ‘culpable negligence inflicting bodily harm’ as a result of a plea agreement in January 2017.
The special needs student told Department of Children and Families investigators that Williams placed him in a bear hug and that he bit Williams’ hand in an attempt to free himself. The student said that the teacher retaliated by biting the third-grader in the back “for like a minute.”
Witnesses said that the student could be heard screaming hysterically, crying, and saying, “my back, my back!”
Williams denied biting the student when questioned by her supervisor despite there being a noticeable adult-sized bite mark below the child’s left shoulder blade, according to the arrest affidavit.
Paid Vacation, Probation, Condemnation
Although Williams was placed on administrative leave immediately after her arrest in December 2015, she continued to collect her teacher’s salary and benefits from Brevard Public Schools without working for two years. Williams was finally terminated from BPS two months after she was convicted in January 2017.
Williams was also sentenced to one year of probation by the 18th Judicial Circuit Court which allowed for early termination if she completed a 4-hour anger management course. Williams’ probation was terminated less than seven months later because she filed a certificate of completion of the 4-hour course.
After her criminal case was closed, the Florida Department of Education moved forward with an administrative complaint against Williams’ teaching certificate.
The original administrative complaint sought the suspension, revocation, or permanent revocation of Williams’ Florida educator certificate.
However, her case was later settled for the lesser punishment of a Letter of Reprimand and a $1,000 fine.