A Bluffton Middle School teacher accused of assaulting a seventh-grade student has chosen counseling, anger management and community service instead of a trial.
Patricia Mulholland can go through the pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders of nonviolent crimes, Bluffton Municipal Court Judge Clifford Bush ruled Tuesday.
The social studies teacher faced charges of assault and battery and public disorderly conduct for allegedly grabbing a student by the collar in class April 25 and making remarks about Nazis and Jews. The misdemeanor charges will be dismissed if she completes the program, which includes a $350 enrollment fee.
The parents of the alleged victim also agreed with the state's recommendation of pretrial intervention instead of prosecution, said their attorney, Patrick Carr of Hilton Head Island.
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"She must undergo anger management, a drug and alcohol assessment with any treatment recommendations that may follow," Carr said. She must also submit a letter of apology and perform community service.
"I think it's very much the right thing to do," he said. "The reality is, whatever happened that day is not going to be cured by her sitting in a jail cell doing hard time."
Carr has declined to identify his clients, saying they have chosen to remain anonymous so as not to be "subject to further scorn." The Bluffton Police Department also has declined to identify them.
During the proceedings, Mulholland agreed to enter the program and provided no other statements. Attempts Tuesday to reach Mulholland's attorney, Robert E. Ferguson, for comment were unsuccessful.
Mulholland has been on paid administrative leave since April 26, the day after the incident.
The school district is awaiting paperwork from the court outlining Mulholland's program before making a recommendation to the county Board of Education, which will ultimately decide on her employment, district spokesman Jim Foster said. Foster did not have a timeline for when that would occur.
According to Bluffton police, the alleged victim told authorities that Mulholland grabbed him by his shirt collar, forced him under a desk and told him, "This is what the Nazis do to Jews."
Police believe Mulholland may have been under the influence of prescription medication, based on statements she and her family provided. Several students took cellphone videos of her in class that day as a result of her erratic behavior, police said, but the incident itself was not caught on tape.
Pretrial intervention programs are run by the Solicitor's Office. The details of Mulholland's regimen, including how many hours of community service she must complete, have not been determined, Carr said.
Once the program is outlined, Mulholland follow it, or the charges will be brought up for prosecution.
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- Bluffton teacher accused of assaulting student, commenting about Nazis, Jews, April 30, 2012