The husband of the Virginia teacher accused of assaulting a 10-year-old student at Butts Road Intermediate School and teaching her class "Islamic hand signs" is defending his wife, saying the allegations are completely untrue.
Tara Harris' husband Dale Harris told WAVY-TV that his wife is not Muslim and has never taught hand signals of any kind in the classroom nor has she ever assaulted any students in her 26-year career as a teacher in the Chesapeake school system.
"It's a lie… an outright lie," he said.
Stephanie Bennett, the mother of the 10-year-old that Harris, a fifth-grade special education teacher, is accused of assaulting, alleges in court documents that Harris had been teaching the Muslim hand gesture for "power and strength." After two days of instruction, Bennett claims Harris grew frustrated with her daughter and aggressively grabbed her arm to show her how to do the sign correctly.
The mother first told TheBlaze her daughter's finger got caught on the metal wire of her notebook and it tore her skin. She also says her child's finger was red and swollen from Harris trying to twist it into the "Islamic" symbol.
Here are the pictures of the alleged assault and some of the "Islamic hand signals," provided to TheBlaze by Bennett:
Another parent, Nita Redditt, told TheBlaze in a previous interview that her son confirmed Bennett's story. TheBlaze is currently reaching out to additional parents that may be able to shed more light on this story.
Bennett also claims that Harris prays five times a day in class, teaches about Islam's superiority over other religions and campaigns for President Barack Obama in the classroom.
So far, there has been no evidence to suggest that the hand signals are in fact Islamic in nature. What is also unclear is whether Harris has had any previous problems in the classroom because Chesapeake Public Schools refuses to speak about the incident.
Dale Harris told WAVY-TV that the school first alerted his wife that parents were complaining that she was teaching Muslim culture in her class.
"She said, 'Dale, I've been accused of teaching the children Muslim hand gestures, playing Muslim music and praying five times a day,'" the husband said.
"This is defamation of character by people who she doesn't know, she's never seen, and Chesapeake city schools is not standing behind her," Dale Harris added.
Attempts to contact Dale Harris and his wife to get more of their side of the story were unsuccessful.
More from WAVY-TV:
Chesapeake Public Schools has declined to comment on the case, saying only that it is a "personnel matter." A spokesperson said Harris has been suspended and her pay is being put into an escrow account. That means she has not been terminated indefinitely as Bennett originally suggested.
"Tara Harris has taught at three schools in Chesapeake over a span of 26 years, according to her husband. Dale Harris believes the school system is targeting his wife because she accused a principal of assault in 2008. Harris says, now, his wife is afraid to go to school, and even more afraid her long career is ruined," WAVY-TV reports.
It should be noted that a Google search for "Tara Harris" and "Chesapeake" does turn up a 2008 case involving a teacher convicted of fondling a 13-year-old girl. The teacher was a Michael Patrick Harris. His wife, Tara Harris, testified in support of the husband. TheBlaze has found no indication of any link between that Tara Harris and the teacher in this case.
As PilotOnline.com points out, "the officials who could either support the claims, or debunk them, are saying nothing."
Check back for additional updates on this story.
WTKR-TV has more details, including interviews with other parents: