Bluffton police: Teacher accused of assault, Nazi comments was possibly under influence of prescription medicine

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Bluffton police: Teacher accused of assault, Nazi comments was possibly under influence of prescription medicine

By ALLISON STICE
astice@islandpacket.com
Published Wednesday, May 2, 2012   |  1182 Words  |  

A Bluffton Middle School teacher arrested this week after allegedly grabbing a student by the collar and making remarks about Nazis and Jews told authorities she might have accidentally taken some of her husband's medication on the day of the incident.

A report that details Patricia Mulholland's contact with investigators was released for the first time Wednesday by the Bluffton Police Department, and includes descriptions of cellphone videos shot by some of her seventh-grade Bluffton Middle School social studies students that day.

Bluffton Police Chief David McAllister said it's a "very strong possibility" that Mulholland was under the influence of prescription medication on April 25, when authorities say she grabbed a student by the shirt collar, forced him under a desk and said, "This is what the Nazis do to Jews. Burn Jew." McAllister described her behavior as "bizarre" and "clearly out of character."

Mulholland was charged Monday with third-degree assault and battery and public disorderly conduct, and she was released later that day from the Beaufort County Detention Center. Mulholland -- who has 23 years teaching experience and no serious previous incidents on her employment record, according to schools officials -- has been on paid administrative leave from the Beaufort County School District since April 26.

Her arrest has attracted national media attention.

Mulholland's attorney, Robert E. Ferguson Jr., said Monday that Mulholland was providing her students an "interactive demonstration" of the Holocaust, the topic the class was reviewing that day. Several attempts since then to reach Ferguson for further comment were unsuccessful.

POLICE GO TO MULHOLLAND'S HOME

However, new details emerged from documents released Wednesday by police.

The new report says the alleged victim stayed under the table for a minute or two and asked Mulholland if he could get up. The victim told police she did not respond, so he got up and walked back to his desk. He was not injured, according to the report.

A Beaufort County School District review began that afternoon after principal Dereck Rhoads heard the allegations from another teacher, district spokesman Jim Foster said. Students were asked to fill out witness statements the same day.

On April 26, the district turned over the students' statements to police, and the school resource officer also interviewed students.

Also that day, police went to Mulholland's home, where her husband Mark said that on the morning of the incident, he left some of his medication on a counter and thinks his wife might have taken it by mistake. Mulholland has been prescribed a different medication, her husband said, adding that he believed the mixture of medicines explains her strange behavior that day, the report said.

The report does not identify the prescription medications.

However, it says that when Patricia Mulholland came to the door, police asked her if she currently was on medication and she stated she was. She was asked to come in for a police interview the next morning, when she was not under the influence of any substance, the report said.

"Mulholland then went on to say that she did take her husband's medication by accident on the day this incident occurred," the report said. "Mulholland stated that she does not remember much about the second period class and feels that it was because of the medication she had taken."

She also said she "would never to do anything to hurt" the student, the report said.

On April 27, Mulholland and her attorney Ferguson decided that she should not be interviewed by police, authorities said.

Bluffton police got a warrant for her arrest later that day. Mulholland turned herself in Monday morning and was released from the Beaufort County Detention Center a few hours later.

VIDEOS RECORD TEACHER'S ACTIONS

The report released Wednesday also describes the videos taken by students taken before the alleged assault.

In one, Mulholland falls on the seat when attempting to sit on top of a desk, and she calls students by incorrect names. "The Holocaust is not mentioned," the report said.

In the second video, she has her back turned to students and is on the phone. Her conversation cannot be heard, the report said.

In the third video, she has a student read objectives for the day's lesson -- to review World War II and the Holocaust, according to the description in the report. After reading these objectives, Mulholland begins talking about a drama show and other topics. "Other than a student reading the objectives for the class, the Holocaust is never mentioned by Mrs. Mulholland," the report said.

In the fourth video, she talks about computers, blogging and technology. When the students laugh at one of her remarks, she tells them she hopes their parents would "slap the crap out of them" with a clenched fist when they get home. She said that if the students "don't go down hard enough," she would "push them around" and "put some bruises on you," the report states.

McAllister declined to release the videos and said police are preparing to use them in Bluffton Municipal Court on May 22, when Mulholland faces the misdemeanor charges. The students were filming Mulholland as a result of her erratic behavior, he said.

The district will wait for a plea or a court ruling before concluding its review, spokesman Foster said. He added Wednesday that the new details will become part of the review.

Mulholland taught at Hilton Head Island Middle School from 1989 to 2003, at H.E. McCracken Middle School from 2003 to 2010 and at Bluffton Middle School since it opened in 2010. She also served as the faculty adviser for the drama department.

"Our employees' personnel records are confidential, but I can say that there is nothing like this in Ms. Mulholland's work history with the district," Foster said.

The name of the victim and the victim's parents have been redacted from police record. McAllister said the state's Juvenile Justice Codeprohibits identifying or disclosing the names of children in law-enforcement records. The parents aren't identified because doing so would indirectly identify their child, he added.

Hilton Head Island attorney Patrick Carr, who said he represents the victim and his family, declined comment, calling it a private matter.

McAllister said the victim has been experiencing medical issues and has been subject to teasing and bullying at school as a result of the incident.

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  1. School board investigates Bluffton, SC, teacher who is accused of assaulting a student, making comments about Nazis, Jews, May 1, 2012
  2. Bluffton teacher accused of assaulting student, commenting about Nazis, Jews, April 30, 2012