Chesterfield band teacher acquitted of assault charges - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Chesterfield band teacher acquitted of assault charges

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A judge says a Chesterfield band director did not assault his student last month. Now, Michael Harrah is headed back to the classroom.

The interaction happened at Matoaca Middle School.  Harrah was charged with assault and battery after a student claimed Harrah slapped him in the face.

In court, Mr. Harrah testified he just tapped the student playfully. A judge said the actions were not criminal, though pointed out Harrah  may have shown poor judgement.

Harrah said he was trying to help the student learn a new instrument, the clarinet, during band class and was trying to make it sound fun and fast paced.

When the 11 year old student took the stand, he testified that Mr. Harrah was going through drills with him about how to play new musical notes through band class and that he slapped the student across the face and made a sound, and then told the student to "shut up".

Several student witnesses claimed Harrah did not say "shut up" and testified Harrah was often goofy with students that he simply touched the student in a "play swap" while making a sound effect.

The accusing student testified that he did tell students he made the whole accusation alone because he wanted them to leave him alone.

Several hundred students signed a petition circulating outside of court.

Harrah and a judge both stated the student was probably embarrassed by what happened in band, though Harrah says the student gave no indication at the time.

In an interesting note in this case, there was actually a substitute judge with a background in both band and the clarinet. He encouraged the student to keep playing and he encouraged Mr. Harrah to find a new hook to engage his students.

Chesterfield school spokesperson, Shawn Smith, issued the following statement: 

"the school division will work directly with Mr. Harrah to complete the administrative process and transition him back to the classroom."

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