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NJ special education teacher keeps her job after slapping student

A New Jersey special education teacher was suspended but will keep her job after slapping an unruly 8-year-old student who hit her in the face.

An appeals panel on Thursday upheld a ruling that Franklin Township teacher Edith Craft be suspended for 240 days without pay and not receive her next raise, according to the Courier News in Somerville, N.J.

The township school board wanted to fire Craft after the 2010 incident, but the state Appellate Division panel affirmed an earlier ruling by the state education commissioner to suspend Craft.

Craft has expressed remorse for slapping the child, but argued that her actions didn’t merit disciplinary action, according to the Courier News. She has been suspended without pay since January 2011 from the central New Jersey district.

School district officials have declined to comment on the case. 

Court filings say Craft was trying to get the boy to stand when he slapped her and she slapped him back. He was not injured, according to the Courier News. The boy is identified in the documents only as "D.S."

There were seven children in Craft’s class on Nov. 1, 2010, when the incident occurred, according to the Courier News. Here's its account:

"(Craft) tried to keep the other six children away from him. There was one tiny boy that liked D.S., and yet D.S. would kick him. On that morning, D.S. was bothering this boy, kicking and slapping him,” the filings read, noting that D.S. was nearly as tall as the approximately 4-foot-11 Craft. “D.S. had hit respondent before that day, and on that day he had knocked off her glasses. D.S. was violent, unruly and non-compliant ... (and Craft) was not able to calm him down that morning.

"At the conclusion of the morning math meeting and announcements, Craft was trying to get D.S. to stand when he jumped up and slapped her, the filings noted. Craft immediately slapped him back, prompting the student to walk away as she said 'I cannot take it anymore,' according to Craft’s own testimony.

"(Craft) was relieved of her teaching duties ... (and) went to the teachers’ lounge and was alone for a while,” the filings indicated. “She had been struck many times before by D.S. and she could not explain why she reacted as she did that day.”

Craft's lawyer, Arnold Mellk, said he was disappointed with the ruling.  “But she has the right to go back and continue with her teaching career,” Mellk told the Courier News on Thursday.

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He described Craft as a devoted teacher. “She is really a sweet, gentle lady,” Mellk said. “And this was not premeditated, cruel or vicious.”

Craft earned a salary of nearly $60,000 during the 2010-2011 school year and taught at Franklin Park School, the Courier News reported. She joined the district in 2004, earning tenure in 2007, according to the newspaper.

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