(BLUFFTON, S.C.) — A South Carolina teacher is accused of grabbing a student and shoving him under a table last Wednesday as she delivered an anti-Semitic rant in her classroom, one her lawyer said was part of an interactive history lesson on World War II and the Holocaust.
Police in the town of Bluffton said Patricia Mulholland, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Bluffton Middle School, grabbed a 12-year-old student by the collar as he was getting up to sharpen his pencil, dragged him 10 feet to the back of the classroom, and shoved him under a table, saying, “This is what the Nazis did to Jews. Burn Jew.” Police would not say whether the student was Jewish.
The rant came after what police had described as unusual behavior by Mulholland last week. Four students in the class caught the teacher on cellphone videos talking about an upcoming talent show, using obscenities, and falling over as she attempted to sit down on a desk. But the anti-Semitic rant and grabbing of the student was not caught on video.
“There is evidence and indication that she may have been under the influence of drugs of some type,” Chief David McAllister of the Bluffton Police Department told ABC News. “Even after the incident, she walked away from the student and ignored him when he asked to return to his seat.”
McAllister said the student’s parents came to the police department the next day to press charges against Mulholland. She was placed on administrative leave by the school district and turned herself in early Monday morning on misdemeanor charges of assault and battery and public disorderly conduct, but was released later that day.
In a statement released Tuesday, Mulholland’s attorney claimed her actions “were intended as an interactive demonstration and not as an insult or intentional assault.”
Jim Foster, public relations officer for the Beaufort County School District, told ABC News there had been a lesson on the Holocaust the day before the anti-Semitic rant.
While the student’s parents proceed with legal action, the school district is conducting an internal investigation into Mulholland’s actions to determine if she broke any professional conduct standards. McAllister said the student’s parents did not learn about Mulholland’s actions from school officials but were told by their son when he returned home from school.
On Tuesday, two school counselors conducted chat sessions with each classroom at Bluffton Middle School to explain to students why the incident was getting so much attention and why it was a sensitive matter. Foster said the superintendent had also reached out to Jewish community leaders to make certain they had the same facts as the school board and to assure them the board was taking the allegation seriously.
“This is not something that happens anymore,” Foster told ABC News. “This is not something that happens in this community anymore, and I think the attention it’s getting shows how exceedingly rare it is.”
Mulholland has a hearing scheduled for May 22 and could face a maximum 30 days in prison and $500 fine. Foster said the internal investigation by the school board will not be complete until after the end of all legal proceedings.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire