Family questions how Hays CISD substitute who punched student was hired


KYLE, Texas (KXAN) — A statement from the family of a student shown on multiple videos being punched by a school substitute at Lehman High School questions how someone with a “criminal background” was able to get into the classroom with their children.

The new statement, issued Thursday by an attorney on behalf of the family, says the facts in the Hays County Sheriff’s office arrest affidavit match what their daughter and witnesses described about the incidents unfolding last Friday.

“The teacher assaulted our daughter by choking her while she was still in her chair; at which point, she tried to defend herself before being brutally attacked,” the statement says. “The behavior of the teacher before, during and after the assault seen on the video, makes it clear she is easily triggered and loses control.”

One of the videos sent to KXAN appears to show the girls making the first contact, before the teacher punches her.

Tiffani Lankford, 32, is charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The statement touches again, as past statements have, on Lankford’s 2014 Maryland arrest for violent behavior against someone close to her, which resulted in a restraining order that was eventually denied. However, no criminal conviction history showed up on an FBI or Texas DPS database for Lankford.

“This person should not have been in charge of our children,” the family’s statement said.

The family’s lawyer says the student was diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder and has suffered loss of consciousness, constant headaches and limited vision. Doctors told the family she was showing early signs of a traumatic brain injury.

KXAN spoke with the Hays Consolidated Independent School District’s superintendent about the incident on Monday, and he described a shocked reaction to videos of what happened in the classroom. He told reporter Tahera Rahman that she had been background checked and had been through a three-day substitute training with the district.

RELATED: ‘The hair on the back of my neck stood up,’ Hays CISD superintendent says substitute in viral video was vetted

The district fired Lankford, reported the incident to the Texas Education Agency and is cooperating with investigators.

Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a review of the district’s policies, but Hays CISD superintendent Eric Wright said that was unnecessary.

“As parents and members of the Hays School community, we are committed to making sure that whatever failures occurred that allowed someone with such a clear history of violence to be entrusted with our children’s safety, will never happen again,” the statement from the family’s lawyer finished on Thursday.

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