NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (AP) _ A teacher has filed a complaint with police alleging a middle school principal threatened to kill a group of science teachers if their students didn't improve their standardized state test scores.
Anita White, who taught at New Braunfels Middle School for 18 years before being transferred this month to the district's Learning Center, said Principal John Burks made the threat in a Jan. 21 meeting with eighth grade teachers. Burks, through a school district spokeswoman, denied the allegation.
White said Burks, while discussing the upcoming Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests, was mad that scores on benchmark tests were not better.
"He said if the TAKS scores were not as expected he would kill the teachers," White said. "He said 'I will kill you all and kill myself.' He finished the meeting that way and we were in shock. Obviously, we talked about it among ourselves. He just threatened our lives. After he threatened to kill us, he said, 'You don't know how ruthless I can be.'
"We walked out of the meeting just totally dumbfounded because it was not a joke."
New Braunfels Police spokesman Mike Penshorn said the incident was filed as a verbal assault, but is being investigated as a terroristic threat.
Burks did not immediately return a call to the school from The Associated Press seeking comment. But New Braunfels Independent School District spokeswoman Stephanie Ferguson said that after she learned of the allegation from reporters, she spoke to Burks and he told her it didn't happen.
Jacob Gonzales, an eighth-grade science teacher at the school who was not at the meeting, said another teacher also mentioned it. He said that that teacher told him "it was not spoken in a joking manner and it kind of alarmed him and gave him an uneasy feeling."
White said she decided to file the police report after one of the teachers spoke to a school board member about the incident without result.
White said that before she filed the complaint Saturday, Burks had told her she was being transferred to the Learning Center, which houses the district's disciplinary school, because of the test scores. She said her classes' standardized test scores were consistently the best in the grade.
Ferguson later released a short statement that noted White filed the complaint after being reassigned.
"While the New Braunfels Police Department investigates a complaint, New Braunfels Middle School officials deny a teacher's claim that she was threatened to enhance test scores," the statement read.
The statement also quoted Burks as saying, "All personnel decisions are made with the best interests of students in mind."
Joe Bean, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, said teachers and administrators are often punished for disappointing test performance.
"It sounds like a case of TAKS tyranny taken to the extreme," Bean said. "Once a principal gets a reputation as not able to get the scores that are required, that principal is virtually unemployable."
Information from: San Antonio Express-News, www.mysanantonio.com
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.