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.
As Russia continues to invade Ukraine, the Slovakian police have shared the heartbreaking story of a 11-year-old boy who travelled to the Slovakia-Ukraine border by himself—with only a backpack, a passport, a note from his mother and a telephone number scribbled on his hand.
Hailing from Zaporizhzhia in southeast Ukraine, the boy reportedly travelled over 1,000 kilometres by train to Slovakia alone in hopes of finding his relatives.
“Volunteers took care of him, kept him warm and provided him with food and drink, which they packed for him on his next journey,” the Slovakian police force shared in a post—along with images of the bright boy wrapped in a jacket, hat, scarf and a red backpack. Despite his undoubtedly traumatic travel, the 11-year-old won over the border officials “with his smile, fearlessness and determination, worthy of a real hero.” The police then hailed him as “a hero of the night.”
Thanks to the telephone number written on the boy’s hand and the note from his mother folded inside his passport, the border authorities were able to get in touch with the 11-year-old’s relatives in Slovakia—who were then able to collect him from the camp. “He came all alone because his parents had to stay in Ukraine,” the post went on to share.
Soon after the boy was united with his loved ones in Slovakia, his mother sent a video thanking the Slovak government and the police for taking care of him.
“My name is Yulia V Pisecka, I’m a Ukrainian citizen from Zaporizhzhia,” she said in the video. “There is a nuclear plant next to my town, which the occupants [Russians] are shooting at. It was on fire. I can’t leave my mother, she can’t move independently. So I sent my son alone on a train towards the Slovak border, where he met people with a big heart.”
“My son is 11 years old and he arrived at the Slovak border by train, where he met customs officers who took him by the hand and helped him cross the border into Slovakia. In Slovakia, volunteers took care of him, gave him food and took him to Bratislava,” she continued. “I want to express my sincere gratitude for all Slovak customs officers and the volunteers who cared for my son. They helped him cross the border on his own. I am grateful that you saved my child’s life.”
With Russia’s attack on the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe (housed in Zaporizhzhia) raising fears of a global catastrophe, the 11-year-old’s journey is just one example out of the 1.3 million people estimated to have crossed from Ukraine into neighbouring countries since war broke out on 24 February. “Please save our Ukrainian children and give them a safe haven,” the boy’s mother urged, breaking down in tears towards the end of the video.