Tiffani Lankford is the 32-year-old substitute teacher who was arrested after police said she repeatedly punched a teenage student, threw the girl to the ground and then stomped on her head.
The incident happened on November 8, 2019, at Lehman High School in Kyle, Texas. The school is part of the Hays Consolidated Independent School District, located about 20 miles south of Austin.
Other students recorded the confrontation and videos of the attack have gone viral. Lankford is facing an aggravated assault charge and was fired. The teenage girl who was attacked was evaluated at a hospital and has since been released. A lawyer for the girl’s family says she appears to have suffered a brain injury.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. A Separate Video Shared to the School’s Facebook Page Suggests the Student May Have Hit Lankford First; Commenters Allege the Student Called the Teacher the ‘N’ Word
The Hays County Sheriff’s Office has not publicly speculated about what might have prompted the violence on November 8. The department simply stated on social media that Tiffani Lankford had been arrested following reviews of the videos and interviews with other students.
Lehman High School has also remained vague. Principal Karen Zuniga stated in a social media post, “We fired one of our guest teachers for hitting and fighting with a student. Under no circumstance is that behavior tolerated at Lehman High School or in Hays CISD.”
But plenty of commenters had a lot of say in that Facebook thread on the school’s page. Others posted additional videos that appeared to show the student hit Lankford first. Lankford was standing over the student’s desk when the girl appears to swing at her, prompting Lankford to hit back. From the angle of the video, it is unclear whether Lankford was touching the student before the violence began.
The conversation on Facebook also included an allegation that the student may have called Lankford the “n” word at some point prior to the confrontation. Several parents wrote that it did not matter what led up to the violence, arguing that teachers never have any excuse to become physically combative with students.
2. Tiffani Lankford Faces a Felony Charge & Was Released On Bond
Tiffani Shadell Lankford and arrested and booked into the Hays County Jail on November 8, according to the Hays County Sheriff’s Department. The listed charge is aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which is a second-degree felony.
Bond was set at $10,000. But according to inmate records, Lankford was released on Personal Recognizance, meaning that she promised to return to court and the judge ruled that she posed a low flight risk.
Lankford does not appear to have prior arrests in Hays County. A search of court records brings up only this case.
3. The Student’s Family Says She Suffers From Seizures & Needs to See a Neurologist Following the Beating
The student who was punched and thrown to the floor was taken to a local hospital by her father to be checked out. She was released shortly after.
But the teen may have suffered longer-lasting injuries. Paul Batrice, an attorney representing the student’s family, told KVUE-TV that the teen may have sustained a brain injury and that she spent the weekend after the incident in a dark room. Batrice said the teen will be checked out by both a neurologist and a trauma expert. He added that before being beaten, the girl had suffered from seizures.
The teen was described as being a sophomore. The Hays County Sheriff’s Department said that she was 15 years old, but a school spokesman described her as being 16. KXAN-TV reported that the girl was a member of the basketball team.
Tiffani Lankford was fired the same day as the incident. The school principal stressed to parents on social media, “We take the safety and security of our students seriously. We took swift action when this incident occurred and will do everything necessary to protect our students.”
4. Lankford Had Been Working as a Substitute Teacher With the District Since August 2019
Tiffani Lankford was hired by the Hays Consolidated Independent School District in August of 2019 and completed orientation training.
Lankford’s first day as a substitute teacher was on September 13 and since then, she subbed 18 times in the district, reported KXAN-TV. Her first day in the classroom was
The Texas Education Agency was also alerted about the incident with the student.
5. Substitute Teachers Are Not Required to Earn Certificates But Must Pass a Background Check
In Texas, individual districts and schools are responsible for setting their own standards about how to hire substitute teachers and who is eligible.
According to the Texas Education Agency website, substitute teachers are not required to hold a professional teaching certification or permit. Tiffani Lankford does not appear to have a teaching certificate; a search of her name on the Texas Education Agency does not bring up any results.
Substitute teachers must pass a criminal background check before being allowed in the classroom. Applicants also have to undergo a medical examination to ensure that they do not have any infectious diseases such as tuberculosis.