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9-Year-Old Student Assaults
Teacher and Causes Death

ST. LOUIS, MO -- A substitute teacher in the St. Louis Public Schools collapsed and died of a heart-attack after scuffling with one of her 4th-grade students at Marshall Elementary School.

City homicide detectives have recommended that the student, a nine-year-old boy, be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Nedra Morris, 51, was working as a substitute teacher on the day she died. She collapsed just after struggling with the boy in a combined 4th- and 5th-grade classroom. She was pronounced dead at an area hospital a short time later.

The struggle began when Morris tried to prevent the boy from drawing on a piece of paper after she gave a class assignment. Morris twice took a piece of paper away from him, and the tussle began when the boy reached for his book bag to get a third piece of paper.

The teacher and boy tumbled to the floor, and some students told police that the boy punched Morris two or three times in the chest. Several students pulled the boy off the teacher. Morris became short of breath and collapsed in the hallway.

St. Louis medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham ruled that Morris' death was homicide. He found that Morris did have pre-existing heart disease, but said that the boy's struggle with Morris outweighed that in causing the heart attack.

The court plans to handle the incident as a misdemeanor assault case rather than manslaughter, and police officers familiar with the juvenile system expect the court to have the child undergo counseling. They doubt whether he will be dealt with harshly.

Louis Cross, president of the St. Louis Teachers Union, said the boy needs to receive counseling. He said the union wants students to understand that attacks against teachers won't be tolerated.

Claudia Collins, the mother-in-law of Morris, said she agrees with the decision not to charge the boy with manslaughter. "He needs to go to a place where he can learn to control his temper," Collins said.

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