Mississippi teacher accused of dragging student is indicted

A former Greenville teacher has been indicted on a misdemeanor charge of abusing a vulnerable person.

Washington County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson said Monday that Linda Winters-Johnson will be arraigned as early as Dec. 13.

A video viewed millions of times shows Winters-Johnson dragging a special education student by the hair across the floor of the Greenville High School gym Sept. 21. A second video shows her striking the student with a cup. The school district fired her, and state officials have scheduled a Dec. 7 hearing on revoking her teaching license.

Washington County Sheriff’s Department Assistant Chief Deputy Percy Miles said the indictment hadn’t yet been served on Winters-Johnson, and that she hasn’t been arrested. Such unserved indictments are supposed to be secret under state law, and the Washington County Circuit Clerk’s office declined to release a copy to The Associated Press.

The criminal charge carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Kenneth Grigsby, who is defending Winters-Johnson against the state’s attempt to revoke her teaching license, said he didn’t know anything about the charge and was not currently representing Winters-Johnson in the criminal matter. He declined to comment on what authorities say Winters-Johnson did.

Richardson said grand jurors considered felony charges but opted for the misdemeanor.

“That’s what was determined by the grand jury,” Richardson said. “They had all the evidence.”

Because grand jurors found probable cause to indict Winters-Johnson, Richardson said she won’t get a separate probable cause hearing before a judge. That additional step is required under Mississippi law before the arrest of teachers, police officers and some other officials for on-the-job crimes.

The district suspended Superintendent Leeson Taylor over his handling of the incident, saying he didn’t tell board members how severe it was until the video was posted on Facebook by the parent of another student and the district was deluged with criticism. Taylor is scheduled to address the school board Tuesday, and board members could then decide whether they will fire him or not.

The school board has also disciplined an unnamed second employee.