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A teacher pulled a child's attached backpack to guide the child on the bus. The child told her parents, the parents accused the teacher of choking the 5th grader. Are there grounds for a criminal charge against the teacher? 

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Unless there is something much more going on than you have described in the scenario, there are no grounds for criminal charges against the teacher.  However, the details of the incident would be very important in determining whether the teacher could possibly be charged.

The most likely charge in this scenario would be assault and battery. Assault occurs when one person’s actions make another person fear that they will be harmed.  Battery occurs when the person actually acts in a way that might harm the other person.  The student could claim that she was afraid that she would be choked by the teacher’s actions.  That would be assault. She could claim that she actually was choked, which would be battery.

Even though these charges are theoretically possible, I would say that they are very unlikely in this scenario.  First of all, a backpack’s straps do not go around a person’s neck so it is unlikely that the teacher could have choked the student by grabbing her backpack straps. Secondly, courts have generally given educators a great deal of leeway in their actions. Courts have felt that it is important to let educators do what they have to in order to maintain order so long as they are not acting maliciously or brutally.  It is unlikely that a court would find that the teacher was maliciously trying to choke the child by grabbing her backpack.  It is unlikely that the court would find that grabbing a backpack is a brutal or excessive way of trying to guide a student’s movements. For these reasons, I doubt that the teacher would be subject to criminal charges for his or her actions.

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