Special education teacher Rhonda Rice, 63, is currently facing two misdemeanour battery charges after she was accused of “biting two students over a jar of pickles” in her school’s shop.
The bizarre incident took place in November 2021 at Bartow Middle School, Florida. Rice apparently tried to take the jar of pickles from the shop and bit two male students working there when they tried to nab it back. It is unclear whether she was actually stealing the pickles and a spokesperson from Polk County Public School District said she claimed she was just “playing around with the students.”
Both students reported the alleged incident and Rice was suspended from the school three days later. The teacher was consequently relocated to Sleepy Hill Middle School where she remains an “active teacher,” according to Polk County Public Schools spokesperson Kyle Kennedy.
Speaking to NBC affiliate WFLA-TV, Kathy Toro, the aunt of a 15-year-old student involved in the pickle attack said, “She just bit them on the forearm and, of course, they released and she was able to get the pickles but there’s other ways to do that.”
It was Toro who went to Bartow Police Department in November and filed charges against Rice. After the story made headlines across the country and even foreign publications, the teacher went on to tell the police that she only “licked” the students rather than biting them, to which Toro answered, “Even if it was and she did lick him, but I don’t believe she did, it’s still not acceptable to me.”
Jason Geary, another Polk County Public Schools spokesperson, said in a statement: “Although she described her actions as playing around with students, we expect our employees to act professionally and serve as models of mature behaviour. They must set a good example for students to follow, and anything less is unacceptable.”
Rice, who has been a teacher for 22 years in Polk County, has previously been involved in other disciplinary incidents. She first received a verbal and then a written reprimand in 2001 for failing to prepare for classes at Boone Middle School. In July 2008, Sleepy Hill Middle School—where she is working now—suspended her for excessively using a work computer for “personal business” when she should have been teaching.
Sleepy Hill Middle School reprimanded her again in March 2015 for “repeated failure to complete a scheduled IEP in a timely manner.” IEPs are individualised education programmes for students with extra support needs.
Rice is set to be arraigned on 31 March 2022. Hopefully, she won’t get into too much of a pickle… Ba dum tss.