Plant City teacher accused of bashing child’s head on desk

Knights Elementary

A Seffner family says a teacher at Knights Elementary School smashed their child’s head into a desk, and now they want Hillsborough County Schools to cover the medical bills.

A lawsuit filed by the child’s father, Justin Wade, accuses elementary school teacher Maria Celeste Liberto of smacking his son Connor’s head against a desk so hard the family had to see doctors and dentists about the injuries.

The incident took place in May 2017, about two months before Liberto quit her job at the Plant City elementary school for “personal reasons,” according to the Hillsborough County School District.

The family wants $15,000 in damages.

According to the lawsuit filed against the school district, Liberto “had a duty to protect and supervise minors in her custody and control.”

Instead, she caused a child “pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, medical and dental expenses, medical and dental care and treatment, and aggravation of a previously existing injury,” according to the lawsuit.

Liberto is 29 years old. Connor is 7.

Attorney Patrick Brannon, from the law firm Winters & Yonker, wrote in a letter to the school district that the injuries were to the child’s mouth, and that photos and medical bills could document the extent of the damage.

“At the present time, the following is unknown: nature and amount of all adjudicated penalties, fines, fees, victim restitution fund, and other judgments in excess of $200,” Brannon wrote.

It remains unclear what prompted the teacher to lay hands on the child in the first place. So far, there remains no explanation of whether the educator was punishing the child for misbehavior, or why she wanted his head on the desk. It remains uncertain whether the contact happened intentionally or accidentally in the classroom.

There’s no record of any type of arrest being made as a result of the violent interaction.

Staff Reports


  • Gloria

    August 28, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    That was wrong of this teacher to put there hands on any child if it where my child i feel sorry for that teacher no one has that right the teacher needs to be fired and never to seek another teaching job again or be around children

  • Roger

    August 28, 2018 at 11:38 pm

    If parents would properly dicipline their children at home they wouldnt act out in school. however bc these children now have no dicipline in their lives, they back talk and ignore adults and supervision. Also sin they took out paddles in school these teachers are helpless when it comes to keeping kids in line. All this being said I do not agree with the teacher for doing what she did, but if you parents would grow up and actually be the parent, it would never come down to this. Protect your children by teaching the right from wrong and dicipline them. Show them there are consequenses for their mis conduct. Raise your kids! Stop allowing the internet to do it. Wake Up America!

    • Sherry

      August 29, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      What a poor excuse for a human being you are noboy other than the kids parents have the right to put there hands on there kids the dumb both should of called the little boy’s parents instead of manhandling him u need to wake up

      • Roger Price

        August 29, 2018 at 8:35 pm

        As stated previously this prob would have never happened if the parents did their job. I’m not defending the teacher I am just saying no one know the circumstances.. and I know how kids act today.. completely out of hand bc parents are being parents! And if you can’t understand that then your part of the problem

        • Crystal

          September 1, 2018 at 9:41 am

          You sir are part of the problem.i am a mother of 2 autistic girls one that goes to this school. Do u have an autistic child. How dare you even suggest anyone has the right to lay a finger on my non verbal daughter. You should read the article better. This is a special needs child not a normal child. Shame on you.

  • c.m.g

    August 29, 2018 at 11:18 am

    I would whoop her ass, NO ONE should EVER touch another ones child, she knew she was in trouble that’s why she left.

    • Roger Price

      August 29, 2018 at 12:35 pm

      If you would dicipline your own kids it prob wouldnt have happened I the first place.. you can bet you bottom dollar some child stands up to me will be knocked down my child or not

    • Jennifer

      August 31, 2018 at 5:07 am

      This classroom was full of special needs children. My grandson was in the classroom and I wasn’t informed that this happened. I really have no idea what my autistic grandson witnessed. However, let’s all assume it was the child’s fault. I agree discipline or lack thereof is out of hand, but if treating special needs kids like this is ok then we need to start doing like China and euthenizing them at birth.

      • Roger Price

        August 31, 2018 at 11:18 am

        Didnt realize it was a special needs kid. That makes the whole situation different. You right. A special needs kid still needs dicipline however, you have to go about it a diff way.

      • Sherry White

        August 31, 2018 at 8:02 pm

        You couldn’t said it better! The classroom was full of special needs children! I know this for a fact. I worked in this classroom with the student’s, hand in hand with Mrs. Liberto and Mrs. Sink, including the child this reportedly happened to! Please read my comment on this article. No child rather special needs or not should be reprimanded in this way by no other than a parent or guardian. With that being said these classes do have students whom can cause harm to themselves, other peers, and to teachers/staff! Again I’ll share I don’t have the answers! Alot of the ESE/EBD classes should have more staff than they do! Under no circumstances to I feel Ms. Liberto is guilty of this! She is a very outstanding teacher with her students! I do think there is more to this! My thoughts and prayers to all involved!

  • Sherry White

    August 29, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    WOW! This is sad situation all the way around! Having worked personally in a classroom with Ms. Liberto I know she is a great teacher! I love the way article’s, new’s, can write such article’s even interview individual’s and it lead to what I just read! My momma always told me if I don’t know the truth don’t speak upon! No I wasn’t there this day! However I will say as adults we all should know there is alway’s more than one side! It is so easy for individual’s to speak upon how one should or shouldn’t do! These same individual’s are not teacher’s! They do not walk into a classroom day in day out! These teacher’s have curriculum to meet, tight schedule’s, and we’re talking about ESE and EBD children! I’ve worked with many my heart daily went out to! Does the school board as a whole make sure these schools teacher’s are equipped with enough employee’s? Should these student’s have more one on one’s? Perhap’s should goto a different need’s school? No I don’t have the answer’s nor claim to! What I can share is this is a young teacher’s career! That I can say she’s good at! I even know this student at Knight’s he was very much loved! These children touch or lives in different ways and their all faced with different challenge’s! I never heard until know what happened with Ms. Liberto. I just knew she was no longer with Knight’s! I pray this all works out for all parties involved! My heart is heavy after reading this! 🙏🙏🙏

  • Christin

    August 29, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    We are the parents of two children, one in special education, at Knights and have been proud to be part of the Knights family for many years. Our experiences have been wonderful and we couldn’t be happier with not just the teachers – but all the staff members, who care about and support the well being of their students. I do not believe this is the whole story about the incident and I am keeping all sides in my prayers.

    • Sherry White

      August 30, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      I couldn’t agree with you more! Thank you!

Comments are closed.


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