Parent attacks teacher, invites reflection on the power of family culture

Pittsburgh mother Daishonta Williams is setting an example for her daughter, from the Allegheny County Jail.

Williams, 29, currently faces multiple counts of aggravated assault after she allegedly stalked Janice Watkins, a PreK–8th-grade teacher at Pittsburgh King, before smashing her in the face with a brick at a traffic stop earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

School officials called Williams to meet earlier in the day because Watkins alleged her 10-year-old daughter bit her when she confiscated the girl’s cellphone. King has a no phone policy for students.

Williams’ daughter claimed Watkins, 46, choked her during a dispute, and Williams demanded “appropriate action.” Watkins denied choking the child, and an upset Williams left the parent-teacher conference promising Watkins “was going to get it later,” court records show.

According to the Post-Gazette:

Ms. Watkins told police that she was sitting in her car on the ramp to the West End Bridge around 3:15 p.m. when she noticed a man and a woman get out of a vehicle they’d parked on the right shoulder. Ms. Watkins was on the phone with her mother and her driver’s side window was rolled down, she said.

Ms. Watkins said the two people approached her car. The woman, whom Ms. Watkins identified as Ms. Williams, then threw a brick through the open window and into Ms. Watkins’ face, according to police.

The couple also allegedly dragged Watkins from the car and stomped and punched her in the roadway, KDKA reports.

Watkins’ husband, a teacher in the district who did not want to be identified, told the television station Watkins was left with a cracked molar, bloody lip, and “lumps all along her forehead and all along the side of her face.”

Police caught up with Williams on a stoop on North Charles Street the next day, and she allegedly owned up to the attack, telling officers “I ain’t gonna lie. I did it,” according to court records.

Police also arrested Williams’ boyfriend, Vincent Beasley, for allegedly helping Williams during the assault.

Williams told WPXI the night before her arrest that she punched Watkins, but denied using a brick.

“I did get out and I did hit her, but I did not throw a brick through the window as they say I did,” Williams said. “I did not. I punched her in her face.”

Regardless, there’s little doubt Williams’ daughter, as well as other impressionable youngsters, are watching and learning.

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture highlighted the impact family and school communities have on character in its “Culture of American Families” report.

“It is true that the seedbeds of virtue are found within many overlapping domains that would include the school, peer relationships, places of worship, the internet, and popular culture, but most important of all is the family and its culture,” according to the report. “Family culture acts as a filter for the larger culture, and its role in forming character ideals among the young is fundamental and irreducible to other factors.”

While both parenting and teaching require courage, wisdom, and civility, family culture has the biggest influence on shaping those virtues in children, whether it’s positive or negative.

Watkins’ mother, Betty Davis, reflected on that reality in an interview with KDKA.

“My heart goes out to the child, because what has that mother taught that child?” Davis said. “Whatever it is, you solve it with violence.”

Watkins, who is slowly recovering, said she’s now forced to confront how her job—which regularly involves attacks from students—is influencing her family’s culture.

“Although my students are my babies, I do have babies,” the mother of four told KDKA. “Why do I have to choose between the babies that I birthed and my babies at school? But now I have to choose.”