Posted on April 18, 2005

Beaten Teacher Recovering

Scott Parks, Dallas News, Apr. 11

When last we met in this space, we were talking about the terrible incident at William B. Travis Academy/Vanguard for the Academically Talented and Gifted on April 1.

Today, it’s time for me to eat a helping of humble pie. But first, here’s an appetizer of brief background before my meal.

Paulette Baines, a teacher at North Dallas High School, left her campus and barged into a seventh-grade science class that Mary Oliver teaches at Travis, a school for academically talented students in DISD.

A police report said Ms. Baines walked into the classroom, grabbed Ms. Oliver by the hair, dragged her across the floor and pummeled her with her fist. Then she kicked her in the ribs. Ms. Baines was arrested and charged with assault. She posted $2,500 bail to get out of jail.


Shortly before the attack, Ms. Oliver said, she heard a commotion in the hallway during class. She said three children were in a hallway in violation of school policy.

Ms. Oliver said she admonished two black students to get back to class. After they left, she said she turned to a white girl and instructed her to get back to class. She told me that the black girls might not have heard her reprimand the white student.

One of the girls, who was Paulette Baines’ daughter, apparently got upset and went to the counselor’s office. Someone there telephoned Ms. Baines, who then came to Travis to confront Ms. Oliver.

“She came into the room and told me she was going to beat me up,” Ms. Oliver said.

And the beating proceeded to take place in front of a group of 12- and 13-year-old seventh-graders.

Both women are 45. Both are teachers. Ms. Baines is black, and Ms. Oliver is of Hispanic and Asian descent.

In this column last week, I wondered whether racial tension at Travis may have had something to do with the attack.

I reported that no one has publicly presented evidence that race had anything to do with it. But I also reported that some black parents have alleged that the Travis staff seems to treat their children differently when it comes to grades and recognition.


Ms. Oliver told me that her broken ribs make it difficult to breathe. Clumps of her hair are missing, and her face and back are bruised.

But the physical pain, she said, is nothing compared with the mental pain when she thinks about how the attack may have changed the impressionable students who witnessed it.

“My thought was ‘My poor students.’ I’m supposed to provide a safe environment for them.’”