Bibb teacher released on bond; Woman accused of beating parent had short stints at other schools Bibb teacher released on bond; Woman accused of beating parent had short stints at other schools
By Karen Shugart, Telegraph Staff Writer
Macon County Telegraph, October 23, 2004

A Bruce-Weir Elementary School teacher arrested Thursday after reports that she severely beat a parent as 19 fourth-graders watched had no disciplinary history with state education agencies.

However, the 30-year-old Macon woman's career has included relatively brief stints in at least three school systems in two states, working jobs that lasted at most two years.

Teacher Katrina Ann Rucker was released from jail Friday night. She has been charged with battery and cruelty to children, and her bond was set at $4,150, said Lt. David Davis of the Bibb County Sheriff's Office.

Meanwhile, parent Lurella Amica was released Friday from The Medical Center of Central Georgia after suffering a fractured nose, a possible broken bone near her eye and several bruises.

Her daughter, who according to a police report watched as her mother was beaten with a chair, punched in the face and dragged by her hair, did not return to school Friday.

"They're going to be all right," said Robert Swarn, father of 9-year-old Valentine Swarn, after he made a brief school visit Friday afternoon to pick up the frightened girl's classwork.

"We really don't want her to go to this school right now because of the emotional state she's in," Swarn said. "As long as she's going somewhere with me, she's OK."

Officers from the Bibb County campus police and the Macon Police Department were called Thursday to the south Macon school after the fight erupted about 8:45 a.m., according to police and school officials.

Rucker started the fight after Amica removed her daughter's book bag from a trash can, the parent told police.

In the ensuing fracas, her daughter was crying for her teacher to stop hitting her mother and ran to them, Amica told police.

She said Rucker then hit the child, pulled her hair and pushed her out of the way before dragging Amica by the hair to the steps of the trailer classroom. School staff pulled the teacher away.

Rucker, however, said she was defending herself after Amica hit her hand in the initial struggle, police spokeswoman Melanie Hofmann said Thursday.

The Telegraph tried unsuccessfully Friday to contact neighbors who knew Rucker.

Rucker, in her third month as a Bibb County teacher, was placed on administrative leave with pay as police and school officials investigate.

She came to the system fully licensed and with a master's degree in May 2003 from Columbus State University.

But before obtaining that degree, Rucker's teaching career included relatively brief stints at schools in two states.

She began teaching at Reese Road Elementary School in Columbus after graduating in May 1998 from Tuskegee University in Alabama with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education.

The job came with a condition: that she pass that year all parts of the Praxis II, a teacher licensing test.

But when she didn't pass it by spring, Muscogee County officials didn't offer her another contract, said Kathy Tessin, the system's human resources director.

No disciplinary actions were in Rucker's personnel file, Tessin said.

"She did resign on her own," she said.

Rucker then took a job teaching at Russell Elementary School in Hurtsboro, Ala., where she stayed two school years until June 2001. She began work that same month at a Head Start in Phenix City, Ala., only to leave a month later.

Whether she taught between July 2001 and August 2004 is unclear.

Bibb County officials did not release personnel records The Telegraph requested early Friday under the Georgia Open Records Act.

The act gives public agencies up to three business days to respond.

According to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which oversees teacher licensure, Rucker has a five-year certificate expiring in 2007 to teach elementary and middle grades.

Gary Walker, director of the commission's Ethics Division, said Rucker had no ethical or disciplinary actions in the agency's database.

"She's never had a problem (with us) before," Walker said.

Rebecca Leigh White, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Education, also said officials there had no record of state disciplinary action against Rucker.

Rucker almost certainly will be investigated by Georgia licensing authorities.

Walker said an investigation could be triggered once any state resident submits a written complaint to the commission. After the ethics committee meets, the commission's investigators would begin a 60-day process that could result in sanctions up to license revocation.

Mike Van Wyck, assistant superintendent for student support services, said more school staff were at the school Friday to beef up security. The school, like other Bibb elementary schools, has no full-time campus police officer.

"We had a good day yesterday after the incident, and another good day today," Van Wyck.

When asked what changes the incident might bring, Van Wyck said it was an isolated event.

"When we learn what the investigations turn up, we'll take some action and deal with whatever we learn appropriately," Van Wyck said.

He said he could not comment on whether Amica had signed in as a visitor at the front office.

Local and state school policy dictates that visitors go to schools' front offices before entering classrooms.

Staff writer Tim Sturrock contributed to this article.

Se related: Corporal Punishment Guidelines for Elementary School, Bibb County, Ga.

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