PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Nearly two weeks after she was allegedly assaulted by the mother of one of her elementary school students, a Pittsburgh Public School teacher is speaking out; still unsure if she wants to return to her classroom, but worried if she doesn’t go back, she’ll be letting her students down.
Janice Watkins has babies at home, four children, including twins – a boy and a girl. She has a husband, Gerald, who is also a teacher.
But she has another family, too. Her babies at school, as she calls them, and she misses them. She calls them her “King” babies, for Pittsburgh King PreK-8 elementary school on the city’s North Side.
“Although my students are my babies, I do have babies,” said Watkins. “Why do I have to choose between the babies that I birthed and my babies at school? But now I have to choose.”
The 46-year-old teacher’s story is ripped from the headlines. It made national news, going viral and reaching millions across social media.
KDKA’s Marty Griffin Reports —
The beating happened along a busy roadway, approaching the West End Bridge. The suspect, Dai’Shonta Williams, admitted to it. Authorities say she told police she followed Watkins and attacked her. Watkins says she remembers the first words of the angry parent.
“‘I told you I was gonna get you, you dumb [expletive],'” Watkins said.
She says some sort of object hit her in the face. First reported as a brick, she says she’s not sure exactly what it was, but it gave her significant injuries.
“Something hit me. I didn’t know what it was,” Watkins said.
After being hit by the object in her car, the assault then moved to the street.
“It was a fight,” Watkins said. “It felt like we fought forever.”
Watkins was hospitalized with cuts, bruises and a concussion.
“If you ever had a migraine – times 10,” Watkins said. “You can’t even… They ask you that pain scale from one to 10, somewhere around an 80.”
The motive for the attack? Authorities say it was because she took a cell phone from a 10-year-old student at the school on Oct. 18. Cell phones are against school district policy, and the student should not have been using it.
“Why take the phone? It wasn’t that, because I’m a teacher and I have power, there are the rules,” Watkins said. “If she is not taught rules, who cares if she can read and write, if she can’t follow the rules.”
Investigators say the student allegedly bit Watkins, then called her mom. She told her mother that Watkins choked her.
“The people who perpetrated this act are trying to maybe make somethings up to make them look better,” said David Shrager, Watkins’ attorney.
Williams remains in jail on charges of aggravated assault, stalking, reckless endangerment and more. Last week, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office ask that her bail be revoked, believing her to be “a danger to the community.”
A source sent KDKA’s Marty Griffin a text shortly after Watkins was assaulted. It read: “This type of thing goes on in the school every day.”
In the last week or so, two more assaults have been reported at the school. A fifth grader is accused of punching a teacher in the face, and an eighth grader allegedly pushed a security guard down some stairs.
A source tells KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “The girl who assaulted the security guard also assaulted a teacher in the building this school year, breaking his nose and his arm, and she was allowed back in school.”
KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “You’ve been assaulted by students before?”
Watkins: “You don’t look at it as an assault because it’s so normal.”
KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “But you have been?”
KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “Punched?”
Watkins: “Yeah, yes.”
KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “Kicked?”
Watkins: “Oh yeah, that was a good one, yes.”
They are the battle scars of a veteran teacher, who is not certain about her future in the classroom.
KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “Are you going back?”
Watkins: “I don’t know.”
If she does, she says it will be for her “King” babies.
“There’s so many awesome kids in that school. Half of them don’t know they’re the awesome kids,” Watkins said.
Some of them have even sent her messages. She says they give her hope. She shared some of them:
“Hi Mrs. Watkins. I just want you to know that you are forever in my prayers.”
“You did not deserve that one bit.”
“I am so sorry that you had to go through that. You are one of three teachers in my life that actually made a difference. And I’ll forever be grateful for that.”
“You shouldn’t let any of this stuff discourage you. You’re still a wonderful teacher and a wonderful mother to your children.”
“I love you Mrs. Watkins, and you’ll always be in my prayers.”
Watkins also says if she quits, she’ll feel like she’s just another adult to let these children down.
“Now, I’ve turned into another adult that lied to them, that hurts a lot,” she says.
She calls teaching at Pittsburgh King both blissful and brutal.
“When I do get to dark times, I think about some students and I go, they’d be lucky to end up in jail instead of dead,” Watkins said.
From the horrible incidents reported in the media, day after day, Watkins wants people to remember that there is hope.
“That’s why we go to school and we teach them, because there’s hope. If that’s the case, then I should just pack up now and move to the suburbs where it’s nice and safe,” she says.
A GoFundMe site has been set up called The Watkins Family Fund. The family has substantial medical and legal costs.