JASPER, Tenn. — A Marion County mother and her deaf son are charged in a school bus altercation that the mother says started after other students bullied her son.
Christa Green, 39, and her son, Tavis Green, 18, were arraigned Wednesday in a Marion County court on a combined 16 counts stemming from the incident.
Christa Green is charged with 13 counts of assault, burglary of an auto and improperly being on school premises, while Tavis Green, a student at Whitwell High School, is charged with one count of assault, records show.
General Sessions Court Judge Mark Raines continued the case to Oct. 12 to give prosecutors time to interview witnesses and review a school bus surveillance tape of the incident. Raines has recused himself from the case because he is the attorney for Marion County Schools.
Christa Green's defense counsel, Graham Swafford, said after the hearing that this is a case of a parent defending her child. Swafford said Christa Green was additionally concerned about a cochlear implant Tavis Green recently had surgically placed in his ear.
"She's not guilty of  counts of assault," Swafford said. "This is a matter of a mother trying to look after her child."
Following Wednesday's hearing, Christa Green declined to comment, saying her attorney had advised her and her son not to talk to media.
But in an interview Tuesday, she said the incident started when she received a call from a student who was riding the bus last Thursday with her son. The student told her that her son had been punched on the bus and wanted his mom to get him, Christa Green said.
As her son was getting off the bus that day, Christa Green got on, records state.
She said that, once she was on the bus, the driver grabbed her arms, which prompted Tavis Green to push the driver away and say "Don't touch my momma."
Christa Green said she then told students on the bus that, if they tried to hit her son again, she would "whip" them herself. The 16-year-old boy accused of punching her son said he was going to call his mother and Christa Green said she urged him to do so.
Marion County mother Christa Green, left, talks with her attorney, Graham Swafford, during a hearing Wednesday in Marion County General Sessions Court. Green is charged with 13 counts of assault in a school bus incident involving her deaf son, a student at Whitwell High School.Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Court records and Christa Green's account of what happened generally agree, but she said she only wanted to protect her son and denied touching anyone. She said surveillance video from the bus security camera will prove her side of the story.
Bus driver Stanley Cookston stated in an affidavit that Christa Green got onto the bus after Cookston told her she wasn't allowed onboard. He said she shoved her way onto the bus and went to the back where the 16-year-old accused of hitting her son was seated, records show. Cookston's statement agreed with Christa Green's account about what she told the students on the bus.
Marion County Director of Schools Mark Griffith said both boys have been suspended from the bus for five days.
Christa Green said her son was the target of bullies last year on a bus.
Griffith said there have been previous incidents over the past two years involving Tavis Green, but that there was no ongoing bullying as far as he knew. The problem on the bus last week was the first incident involving Tavis Green this year, he said.
Griffith said there are processes that must be followed to effectively deal with the problem, but he understands a parents' instinct to protect their children.
The outcome of the court process will be the end of the matter for the school system, he said, and Tavis Green will face no further punishment at school.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...