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Teacher arrested on battery charge involving student

A veteran teacher with the McDuffie County School System has been charged with a misdemeanor crime stemming from a Feb. 12 incident involving a 10-year-old student at Thomson Elementary School.

Patricia Ann Cummings, 58, who has taught special education for several years, turned herself in to authorities on Tuesday afternoon after being informed earlier that day that she was going to be charged with simple battery, Thomson Police Investigator Lt. Scott Whittle said during a mid-morning news conference.

The teacher, who holds a doctorate degree and lives in Hephzibah, later was released on bond from the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center.

Dr. Cummings is accused of assaulting the male student in the hallway outside of her classroom on Feb. 12. The incident reportedly was witnessed by several teachers and other adults, Lt. Whittle said.

"The student was pushed into a wall," Lt. Whittle said, explaining that the incident stemmed from the teacher trying to discipline the student about an undisclosed act.

The student received "some bruising and swelling" to his back and was checked by the school nurse for those reported injuries, the investigator said.

An internal probe began immediately at the school level, according to McDuffie County School Superintendent Mark Petersen. It was led by Thomson Elementary School Principal Anita Cummings, who is no relation to Dr. Cummings. That probe led to the teacher being placed on administrative leave with pay, Dr. Petersen said.

Lt. Whittle said the school superintendent notified Thomson Police Officer Marquis Murray about the incident later that same day and that a report was written by the officer.

"Our number one concern is the safety and well-being of all of our students," Dr. Petersen said. "We'll continue to uphold that. It's an unfortunate situation, but it's been addressed."

Web posted on Thursday, February 26, 2009

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