Teacher accused of choking, ear twisting, hitting students' heads

Watkins Elementary School teacher to appeal decision to fire her

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Throughout her two-decade career with Broward County Public Schools, Ava Williams was accused of twisting a student's ear, hitting students' in the back of their heads and most recently of choking a student. 

After a boy allegedly slammed his chair against his desk in the classroom, a student said he watched in horror as the veteran teacher grabbed him around the neck and choked him, according to a report from the school board of Broward County. 

The alleged victim told his parents who complained to Watkins Elementary School administrators. During the school board's investigation, the student who said he witnessed the attack told Richard Orzech, a detective with the Broward District Schools' special investigative unit, the teacher was yelling. 

Both Williams and the students agreed, she was yelling, "Do you hear me?"

Orzech reported only one student admitted to witnessing the alleged choking Sept. 14. 

The other students told the detective they were waiting outside the classroom. They said they were already used to Williams being "mean" and yelling. Another teacher who works with Williams became a witness in the case that got Williams fired Tuesday. 

Surveillance video shows the third-grade teacher stopped to talk to her colleague, Shawony Russell, a Watkins Elementary teacher, after the incident, Orzech's report said. Williams appeared to have developed a bad reputation with some colleagues at the school. 

"I'm sick of her abusing these kids," another school employee wrote in a text message to the school's assistant principal, according to Orzech's report. 

Williams, 55, started working with Broward County Public Schools in 1998. During similar incidents in 2013 and 2015, she was accused of twisting a student's ear and of hitting students on the back of the head.   

Despite the two students' allegation, the Broward Sheriff's Office Child Protective Investigation Service detective classified the incident as "not substantiated." Williams, who is a member of the Broward County Teacher Union, plans to appeal the school board's decision with a state judge.

About the Authors:

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.