March 19, 1998 in Nation/World

Gun-Toting Teacher May Be Fired Hasn’t Returned To Classroom Since December Robbery, Attack

Jodi Mailander Farrell Miami Herald
 

A teacher who was robbed and beaten in the Little River Elementary School parking lot by a teenager on a bike last year might be dismissed by the School Board Tuesday for failing to return to work since the attack.

Judith Williamson, 55, insists she is being fired because she refused to accept a reprimand for bringing her revolver onto school grounds. She had been carrying the gun in her car and had it when she was attacked.

Williamson, who has a concealed weapons permit, would leave the gun in her car in the parking lot - a violation of board policy, which bans firearms on school property. The gun was stolen in the robbery and never recovered.

“The streets are dangerous,” said Williamson, who argues that the board rule violates her constitutional right to bear arms. “I need my gun.”

Deputy Superintendent Nelson Diaz said Williamson has turned down job offers at two other public schools and has failed to return to work, despite clearance from doctors who say she is able.

“She’s not being dismissed because of the gun,” Diaz said. “The district has gone out of its way providing alternate assignments and she has refused to show up at the schools.”

Board members, who no longer are provided with details of employee dismissals, will vote on her suspension and subsequent dismissal based on three general charges: willful neglect of duty, gross insubordination and excessive absenteeism.

After the February 1997 attack, Williamson refused to attend a “conference for the record” before returning to work. Such conferences are typically held to address policy violations. She says district administrators told her she could not bring an attorney. She felt attending alone was tantamount to admitting guilt.

“I was frightened and I didn’t trust them,” said Williamson, who taught in Dade County, Fla., public schools for eight years. “By going to the conference I would be admitting there was a violation. I didn’t know what they’d do. They could put me in handcuffs for all I know.

“I will not apologize or have my record tainted by something I did to defend myself.”

Diaz said Williamson was required to attend a conference. He was unfamiliar with the investigation into her firearms violation, but said it more than likely would have resulted in a reprimand, not her dismissal.

“I don’t know of anybody fired for … carrying a gun,” Diaz said. “Again, here we had an employee who was released to go back to work last year and refuses to go. That’s the bottom line.”

Williamson kept her Brazilian INA snub-nosed .38-caliber revolver in the console between the front seats with her cellular phone. The gun was holstered and locked, but the console did not have a lock, she said.

Williamson, a member of the National Rifle Association, said she carried the gun for protection because she was frightened driving from her Miami Lakes, Fla., home to the Liberty City, Fla., school, where she taught English as a Second Language to second-graders.

She said people had pounded on her hood and tried to push her car through intersections several times since she began teaching at Little River Elementary in 1989. She once took the gun out and put it on the dashboard to scare people away, she said.

“I’m a woman alone,” Williamson said. “I have to get off on roads with people with those sprinkler bottles. … Should I break down, I’m chicken soup. I am absolutely duck meat.”

As Williamson pulled into the school parking lot about 7:15 a.m. on Feb. 20, 1997, a young man on a bike circled her car. He got off and stuck a gun in her face, according to Miami police. He hit her head with the gun, then pushed his way into her car.

Williamson, bruised and scratched, fainted. She said she still suffers from an eye injury and posttraumatic stress syndrome.

Her attacker, who was not arrested, got away with her purse and handgun.


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