BISD educator sentenced for injury to a child

Michael Fisher

Former educator Michael Fisher was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years probation and anger management classes for punching a student while he was employed as a math tutor at Beaumont Independent School District’s Smith Middle School in November 2013. Fisher maintained his innocence throughout his trial, but video surveillance of the incident and witness testimony, including testimony from two fellow educators, convinced a jury otherwise.

Assistant district attorney Mike Laird headed the prosecution’s case, assisted by assistant district attorney Dan Hunt.

“When we send our kids to school, we want them to learn and to be safe,” Hunt said after the verdict. “He is an educator here – and an adult; a kid may not know better, but certainly we expect an adult to know better.

“The defense tried to paint it as just a mistake. An educator punching a child is not a mistake; it’s a crime.”

According to Hunt, Fisher was found guilty of injury to a child under 14 years of age, a third-degree felony, on Tuesday, April 7. Wednesday, April 8, a jury handed up a sentence of seven years in jail combined with a $5,000 fine. Once the jury learned of Fisher’s absence of any prior criminal convictions, probation was recommended in the case. Judge John Stevens set the probated sentence to 10 years. Should Fisher not follow the terms of his probation over the next decade, a sentence of up seven years in jail and the $5,000 fine could then be imposed. According to Hunt, the conviction will be on Fisher’s permanent record. Prior to conviction, Fisher had been offered deferred adjudication, meaning the conviction would have been removed from his record upon satisfactory completion of the agreed upon terms. Fisher declined that offer.

“I feel some compassion for the defendant, but it wasn’t our choice – it was his choice. He made an unfortunate decision. The defendant in this case has no criminal history, and he’s done nothing since then,” Hunt said. “It’s a shame because we need good people teaching but with this on his record, do we want to take a chance with him now? I don’t think we do.

“The chances of him teaching again are not very good.”

Fisher was not a certified teacher at the time of the incident, and a felony conviction will likely prevent him from ever being one.

Hunt said the jury found Fisher guilty of the crime in less than an hour, and only spent an hour and a half debating sentencing.

“He lost it. You can’t do that,” Hunt said. “The message from the jurors is that is unacceptable.”

The victim’s family reported being pleased with the verdict and satisfied with the sentencing recommendation.

— Jennifer Johnson