Teacher Awaiting New Trial in Slap Attack Case Wants 'Storm' to Be Over
(SAN ANTONIO) -- A Texas teacher, who was found guilty of inciting a slap attack on one of her students but had the conviction thrown out, is wondering "when my storm will be over." She is awaiting a new trial and continues to deny any criminal wrongdoing. Cynthia Ambrose also claims that she's unemployable.
Shortly after her story aired on 20/20 last October, Ambrose was granted a new trial with the judge ruling that the jury in Ambrose's case was improperly instructed on the law. Prosecutors are now appealing that decision.
In May 2012, Ambrose, 44, was accused of having students in her class line up and hit then 6-year-old Aiden Neely one by one as a punishment for allegedly punching and kicking some of his classmates at Salinas Elementary School, near San Antonio, Texas.
"All the kids lined up, and they started hitting him, some in the face, some in the back, some on his head," Amy Neely, Aiden's mother, told 20/20. "He said some hit him twice."
Ambrose claimed Aiden's teacher Barbara Ramirez asked her to discipline him, because parents had complained about the boy. Ramirez told authorities only six or seven children actually hit Aiden in Ambrose's classroom.
"You know, I said, 'Do you want me to scare him?'" Ambrose, told 20/20's John Quinones.
Ambrose, who earned a reputation at the school as "The Enforcer" during her 11-year career as a teacher, got tough.
"I did say, 'Does anybody want to show him what it feels like?'" Ambrose said. "I was expecting my class to say, 'Yes,' and I turned, 'You see? Would you want your friends to hit you?'"
But that was when Ambrose said the situation got out of control: "Next thing I know, I hear this hit. It sounds like a hit to the back."
However, Aiden's mother Amy Neely and teacher Barbara Ramirez claim that Ambrose took it upon herself to have her kids line up and have them hit Aiden one by one. Ramirez told authorities Ambrose suggested the children "hit him harder."
"It made me sick to my stomach, really," Neely said.
After the incident, Ambrose was suspended and was later advised to quit her teaching position. This past June, she went on trial. She was accused of encouraging multiple students to hit Aiden that day. However, she adamantly contended only one student hit Aiden in her classroom that morning.
Patrick Ballantyne, assistant district attorney in Bexar County, Texas, said Ambrose initially confessed to the school principal and superintendent but changed her story when she realized how serious the charges were.
After 36 minutes of deliberation, the jury found Ambrose guilty of "official oppression," a Class A misdemeanor in Texas.
In August 2013, Ambrose was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years' probation, ensuring that she would not be able to teach in Texas for at least that long. Since she was granted a new trial in October 2013, prosecutors in San Antonio are appealing that ruling.
"I just want people to know I'm not a monster," Ambrose said. "I did not order a hit. It was a teachable moment that went wrong, and I wish I could take it back and I'm sorry."
Amy Neely said she wants Ambrose to never be allowed to teach again. "She doesn't need to be around any children because of what happened to Aiden," said Neely, who has filed a civil suit against Ambrose and the school district she taught in.
"I'm trying to send a message to the district to take care of teachers that cause problems like this in class, that go too far," Neely said.
She has since pulled Aiden, now 7 years old, out of Salinas Elementary School and enrolled him at a new school with new teachers and new friends.
"Sometimes he'll come up to me and say, 'Mommy, why'd you leave me in that classroom?' Neely said.
Aiden told 20/20 he liked his new school better than his former one, "because the other school... people being mean to me."
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