CORAL SPRINGS (CBSMiami) – A veteran teacher accused of forcing a 10-year-old student to clean a clogged urinal with his bare hands is speaking out for the first time, saying she would “never want to hurt a child.”
“I don’t want to hurt kids. I want to help kids,” said teacher Jennifer Forshey in an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.
“Never would I want to hurt, never,” she said. “I never intended to hurt any child or would want to hurt a child. That’s not how you teach and help people grow. So I would not do that.”
Forshey spoke to CBS4 hours before her school announced that she was being placed on administrative leave.
Forshey wanted to share her story with D’Oench after a series of negative stories. She and D’Oench were colleagues at another Miami TV station for more than a dozen years. Forshey was a videotape coordinator at the station before leaving the station to become a teacher.
She told D’Oench that she is passionate about teaching and took a hefty pay cut to get in to that profession.
Because of the pending criminal case, she said she could not discuss specific details. She did say she felt she did not force the child to clean the urinal. “I did not stand over him,” she said.
“I love kids,” she said. “I don’t have my own and I quit a decent paying job to go into teaching when I realized my life was at a point where I wasn’t going to have kids. I love teaching and I only want to help kids. That’s my whole thing. I gave up a good career so I could have a good career, not financially, but doing something important.”
“It matters to me and I wanted to be of help,” she said. “I felt like the society needs more than just one person and I had my energy to give into it. I wanted to get them books to read, to share points of view, their opinions and be good voters, good citizens.”
“I felt like doing something. I have received many emails over the years from a parent here and a parent there saying I made a difference in their lives, that it was hard time in their life and I gave them encouragement.”
“One parent sent my an email that said that she knows that the woman her child is today was directly related to her year in 4th grade,” said Forshey as her voice broke.
She said she would fight the charges against her.
“Yes I hope to continue teaching and I am working on my masters and I am supposed to graduate on May 3rd. I need to focus on that. I’m a Christian and I follow Christ and I know God knows the truth and that’s all I really need.”
Forshey is a 3rd grade teacher at Broward Community Charter School West in Coral Springs.
School leader Channa Pommels released a statement Thursday saying, “We are committed to providing a safe, respectful and nurturing environment for all students and families at Broward Community Charter Schools and Discovery Middle Charter School.”
“The incident involving a student on February 6th is an isolated incident,” Pommels said. “Due to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), we will not disclose any information about the student involved in the incident in order to protect the student’s privacy.”
“The teacher involved in the incident is currently on administrative leave; meanwhile we continue to cooperate with authorities throughout this ongoing investigation. School remains in session and we remain focused on maintaining an environment conducive to learning.”
A police report says the student told investigators that Forshey accused him of clogging the urinal with paper towels and then ordered him to remove the clog without providing any safety equipment.
According to the police report, the “victim’s hands were saturated with what smelled like urine from the urinal and the paper towel that was in the urinal.”
The student also told police that there was no soap in the bathroom to wash his hands with afterwards. A police report says she told detectives that “she only thinks what she did was wrong because she is in trouble for it. Otherwise, she does not see anything wrong with exposing a child to urine.
Forshey, who has been a teacher for 10 years, is charged with battery on a child by exposing him to urine, which is a felony.
Police say Forshey admitted to not giving the boy any type of equipment or instruction to clean out the urinal. Investigators say another teacher witnessed the incident.
Outside the school, some parents said they were upset about the allegations.
Tonia Jusino said, “That’s not right, especially at schools where we drop off our kids and we think they’re safe and in good hands. It’s a shame people out there actually do that. It makes me a little scared because I worry what else is going on inside the school.”
Another parent, George Vittera, said, “She just used really horrendously bad judgment. This is a really really good school. I hope it doesn’t reflect on the school.”
The attorney for the 10-year-old student and his mother, Joshua Hertz, released a statement saying, “The only reason we are Bringing this story to the public is to find out if any other child has been treated in this way before.”
“We want to protect this child and possibly any other children that may have been subjected to this form of corporal and unmoral punishment. My client wants to find out why a teacher would allow this to happen.”