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

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KYLE, Texas (KXAN) — KXAN’s been getting answers from the Hays Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent about video that went viral showing a substitute teacher physically attacking a sophomore student at Lehman High School.

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

“My jaw dropped, the hair on the back of my neck stood up,” says Hays CISD superintendent Eric Wright.

He had the same reaction as many others to the violent video recorded Friday afternoon.

“To say that I was appalled is probably an understatement,” Wright says.

Video that surfaced since then shows the LHS sophomore swinging first at Lankford but Wright says that doesn’t change the district’s decision to fire Lankford that same day.

“A teacher should react by calling administration and punishing those students that didn’t comply with their orders. A teacher should never respond by assaulting a child,” Wright says.

Wright says they ran a background check on the substitute teacher before she even started working at Lehman or anywhere in the district.

No criminal conviction history showed up on an FBI or Texas DPS database.

“We can control the procedures and the practices that we have and once an individual is well-suited to be hired and put into that position. What we can’t control is their emotional intelligence,” Wright says.

He says Lankford was a certified teacher and went through a three-day substitute training with the district.

He says they reacted appropriately to what he calls an anomaly.

Governor Greg Abbott is calling for a review of Hay’s CISD’s policies.

Wright says that’s not warranted.

“I think it’s an overreaction, but we welcome the TEA to come and take a look at what we’ve done because we followed protocol, we acted swiftly,” he says.

The Hays CISD is offering counseling for anyone who witnessed last week’s incident or support services for anyone who saw the video and wants to talk about it.

The lawyer for the girl shown in a cell phone video being beaten by a Hays CISD substitute teacher says his client suffered a traumatic brain injury from the attack and is also suffering from acute traumatic anxiety.

Attorney Paul Batrice tells KXAN the girl will meet with a neurologist, a neuropsychologist, and a trauma specialist on Monday.

“The child is currently being treated for the severe injuries she sustained from this attack, and her family and loved ones are close by,” Batrice added in a statement.

Batrice says the girl has been previously diagnosed with epilepsy.

She was in Spanish class on Friday when the attack took place. There were multiple videos of the incident, one of which appears to show the student making first contact before the teacher responds with punches and stomping on her head.

Tiffani Lankford

Tiffani Shadell Lankford, 32, was arrested Friday by the Hays County Sheriff’s Office. She is charged with aggravated assault. She was released from jail Saturday on a $10,000 bond.

Hays CISD says the district fired Lankford.

Full statement from attorney for family of student:

“We are shocked and disgusted after seeing the abuse and excessive force used in this teacher’s attempt to discipline  a special needs child. There is no excuse for this type of behavior. Given this teacher’s alleged criminal history of domestic violence and the video footage that has shaken our community, we have started an investigation into this teacher and Hays CISD in the hopes of ensuring justice for this family and so that no Texas student has to ever endure such extreme behavior again. 

The child is currently being treated for the severe injuries she sustained from this attack, and her family and loved ones are close by. All parents, myself included, should be deeply disturbed by the facts surrounding this abuse. When we drop our children off at school, we expect that teachers and administrators will keep them safe, not place them in an environment of violent behavior.  This is unacceptable to say the least, and we will demand justice to the fullest extent of the law to enact the change so obviously necessary.  

Paul Batrice, attorney for family of student

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