A Phenix City teacher accused of taping the forearms of two students together pleaded innocent to felony child abuse charges Tuesday and her attorney tried to get the charges reduced to a misdemeanor.
Sierra Pettway was working at the Phenix City Intermediate School in December when she was charged with taping the forearms of a sixth-grade boy and girl.
Pettway’s attorney W. Don Eddins of Auburn, Ala., said a decision on the charges has been delayed until April 23. That’s when Russell County District Judge David Johnson may decide if there is sufficient evidence to sent the case to a grand jury.
“Our basic argument was that Miss Pettway is a good person,” Eddins said after the hearing. “She is a good teacher. If she did what she was accused of, she just made a mistake. She absolutely is not a criminal. She did not in any way, shape, form or fashion intend to hurt those children.”
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At the time, officials said the boy had some bruising where he apparently had been digging under the tape. The parents pushed for the charges to be filed. “They were just being a little bit rambunctious and she kept talking to them and said alright I’m going to tape yall’s arms together if you don’t behave,” Eddins said. “This is what she is accused of and they never behaved. She taped them one time and it was so loose the tape just actually fell off. Then she taped them again.”
The attorney said at issue is whether a school teacher can be charged under the stature under which she was charged.
“She was administering discipline and you can’t be charged under that stature,” Eddins said.
The attorney said he is hoping for the charges to be reduced and things are worked out. “She is absolutely not a criminal, not a felon,” he said. “What she is charged with is something that’s much more serious than drinking and driving. It’s absolutely crazy.”
The attorney said Pettway is back in the classroom teaching in the school system headed by Superintendent Larry E. DiChiara. “Yes, she is back in the classroom,” Eddins said. “Dr. DiChiara is one who is very strict about employees rules and things like that. He would be the last one to let her go back if he thought there was a problem. She is doing fine. She’s hanging in there.”