Principal's name to be stricken from state's maltreatment list

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

BERRYVILLE -- Circuit Judge Alan D. Epley reversed a decision of the administrative board of the Arkansas Department of Human Services Thursday, ordering that Berryville Elementary Assistant Principal Shelly Holman's name be removed within seven days from the state's child-maltreatment registry.

According to court records, on April 2, 2004, in the presence of witnesses including his parents and administration representatives, Holman administered three swats to a 12-year-old boy's buttocks.

The child's mother, who opted for the paddling rather than suspension, complained to the state child abuse hotline alleging abuse by Holman after she observed bruises on her son's buttocks.

Berryville Superintendent Mike Cox consistently maintained that Holman was not guilty of abuse, noting that she followed all rules and regulations of the school in administering the punishment.

Administrative Law Judge Lech Matuszewski of the Office of Appeals and Hearings conducted a hearing in January, and placed Holman on the state's Child Maltreatment Central Registry on March 18, finding that DHS had proven that Holman had physically abused the boy.

Holman filed a civil suit in the case with the Carroll County Circuit Court in April, and meanwhile her contract as elementary principal was extended.

Court documents stated that a physician found no injuries to the boy other than the bruises.

It is common knowledge that some people bruise more easily than others.

Matuszewski ruled that Holman did not act with extreme tact, care and caution in administering the punishment, as required by the school district's policies.

Epley termed Matuszewski's report as "arbitrary, capricious and not supported by evidence."

The discipline was administered due to a fight the boy started on the school playground. DHS Attorney Sherry Wilson, exhibiting photos of the boy's bruises, said they were proof that Holman did not administer the paddling with care.

Epley responded, "I'd hope there was pain."

Early in Thursday's hearing, Epley denied a motion by Wilson to close the courtroom, which is common in juvenile cases. He indicated that a precedent had already been set, saying that no efforts had be made to protect the information, with interviews regarding the situation and photographs of the boy's buttocks already being entered into the public record.

Describing that development as appalling, he ordered that the photos be sealed and not open for public inspection.

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