A game of dodgeball got out of control in a gym class at Bridgeport Middle School Thursday, and a substitute teacher in charge of the class allegedly threw a basketball at an eighth-grader who was on the floor.
The ball struck the student in the head.
Another student filmed the incident using a school-issued iPad, and turned the video evidence over to Principal Travis Whisenant, who acted quickly.
“As soon as we found out, we had the substitute teacher leave campus,” Whisenant said. “Then we contacted the parents, CPS and the Bridgeport Police Department.
“This is not something at our campus that we would condone from a substitute teacher or any adult,” he said. “It was very inappropriate.”
The teacher, Billy Garvin, 65, has substituted in the district for several years in various classrooms, apparently without incident. But what administrators saw in the video drew quick action.
“What I saw on the video and after interviewing students was that a teacher threw a basketball at a student,” Whisenant said. “The student was on the floor and it looked like he was laughing at the teacher. The kids were playing dodgeball and at some point one of the balls hit the substitute teacher in the head. He then throws a basketball at the kid on the floor.”
The student in question is an eighth grade boy who has fought multiple battles with brain cancer. He has had two brain surgeries, once as an infant, and another when he was in the third grade.
One witness said the basketball hit the boy in the head with so much force that his head actually bounced off the gym floor. The witness also said the child was crying, not laughing, and that Garvin had ordered him to stand up multiple times. When the student did not obey, Garvin picked up a basketball and threw it, striking him in the head.
Meanwhile, the gym class turned into a free-for-all as students playing dodgeball were hitting each other in the head with the red rubber balls.
Bridgeport Police Chief Randy Singleton said Friday morning his department is investigating the case.
“We’ll talk to witnesses and see if a crime occurred,” Singleton said.
If they determine that it did, the charge could range from a simple assault to an assault causing bodily injury.
“This was definitely a case of a sub behaving badly,” said Bridgeport Superintendent Eddie Bland. “As soon as we found out about it, we took immediate action and made sure all the proper authorities were contacted.
“We absolutely do not tolerate this kind of inappropriate behavior by teachers or substitutes. We moved pretty swiftly on this. What I saw on that video I determined was inappropriate behavior by an adult on one of our students. It will not be tolerated. The sub did not finish the day here yesterday, and he won’t be allowed back on any of our campuses.”
Bland said all teachers and substitutes “go through a fairly vigorous screening process. We don’t just take anybody. There is a filtering process.
“But anytime something like this happens, we go and reevaluate and re-assess and see if there is anything we could have done differently to prevent this from happening.”
Editor’s note: The original story included the wrong age for Garvin.