Marion County authorities investigating alleged teacher-student assault at South Pittsburg Elementary

Authorities in Marion County are investigating a report of an assault on a student at South Pittsburg Elementary School in late January by a physical education teacher, according to school officials and law enforcement.

The incident happened during lunch at the school on Jan. 26, according to Marion County Director of Schools Mark Griffith. It was allegedly witnessed by other students who reported it to school leaders, Griffith said.

"I was notified by the principal at South Pittsburg Elementary that a teacher was escorting a kid to another table and got off balance and nudged the kid or maybe pushed him a little too hard," Griffith said Tuesday by phone. "The matter's still in investigative mode at this time."

Griffith said the male student involved is an older pupil in the fifth or sixth grade. He didn't want to be more specific to avoid identifying the student.

(READ MORE: South Pittsburg football team draws inspiration from tragedy)

"The teacher is currently on the job pending the outcome of the investigation," Griffith said, declining to name the teacher, who has not been charged with a crime.

According to Griffith, the teacher has had no documented problems in the past.

South Pittsburg Elementary School serves children in pre-K through sixth grade and had a population of 477 students and 30 classroom teachers in the 2021-22 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said evidence collected in the case will be reviewed by a Marion County grand jury.

(READ MORE: Teacher's aide arrested for biting special needs child)

"It's still an open investigation, and we talked with District Attorney Courtney Lynch, and she wants to present it to the April grand jury," Burnett said Tuesday in a phone interview.

Burnett said he watched a school security video of the incident but he was unable to say whether anything could be determined from it.

"It'll be the opinion of the grand jury, and we'll see what they want to do," he said.

Griffith said he's staying in close touch with law enforcement as the investigation continues.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.