Assault charges against Rock Hill teacher might go away

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comApril 10, 2013 

An assault charge against a Rock Hill teacher accused of bruising a female student’s arm might be expunged if he completes a one-time counseling and education program for first-time offenders.

Daniel Johns, 35, a third-grade teacher at Rosewood Elementary School, told a municipal judge Wednesday that he has applied for pretrial intervention – a program that allows first offenders to have charges against them expunged if they successfully complete counseling, community service work or make restitution.

If Johns successfully completes the program, the third-degree assault and battery charge against him would be removed from his record.

Johns declined to comment after the hearing.

Johns turned himself in to police on March 28 after a 9-year-old Rosewood student said he had grabbed her the morning before and bruised her arm.

He had been the hall monitor that day, watching over children who arrived to school early and were instructed to quietly read books or do their homework while they waited for the school bell to ring, school district officials said.

The girl had not been doing what she was told, Rock Hill schools spokeswoman Elaine Baker said, so Johns took her into a classroom to speak with her before he returned her to her peers.

According to an arrest warrant, Johns used “such pressure and force” that it caused bruising on the child’s upper left arm. She did not require immediate medical attention.

After his arrest, Johns was placed on administrative leave with pay. On Wednesday, district officials said they hadn’t made a decision about Johns’ employment status. He will remain on administrative leave while the district completes its own investigation, Baker said.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the girl’s father stood opposite Johns as they approached Municipal Judge Jane Modla’s bench.

Anna Miller, assistant Rock Hill city solicitor, said she had planned to suggest that Johns enter the PTI program since he’s a first-time offender. By the time court started, she said, he already had signed up for the program and begun the application process.

As Miller conferred with the girl’s parents in the courtroom, Modla told them they have the opportunity to object.

“The father and mother are quite satisfied with his being enrolled in the program,” Miller said.

Johns never admitted to hurting the girl, Miller said, although PTI “in and of itself is an acknowledgment.”

State laws prevented 16th Circuit Court Solicitor Kevin Brackett from confirming whether Johns is enrolled in PTI, but he was able to speak generally about the program.

Enrollees, who are usually accused of committing minor crimes, pay a $300 application fee, Brackett said. Once they’ve completed the program, they pay an additional $250 fine to have the charge cleared from their record.

Enrollees usually go on a “scared straight” tour of the prison, complete 50 hours of community service and receive counseling that might fit their offense, like substance abuse counseling or anger management, Brackett said.

Typically, people in the program also must complete a research project on the law they’re accused of breaking, he said.

The program is only offered once. If an enrollee fails the requirements, their case will be reassessed, the charges filed again and they’ll go to trial, Brackett said.

Johns’ charge, third-degree assault and battery, carries no more than 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

He has taught at Rosewood Elementary for more than a decade.

In 2006, he was at the center of another police investigation after a student’s mother complained that Johns instructed his second-grade class to walk on her son’s feet as punishment.

Charges were never filed against Johns, who told police and the school district that he never meant to harm the child but only teach him a lesson about his own bullying behavior.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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