A Roane County kindergarten teacher who reportedly told students to encircle a classmate, call him a pig and make pig noises because the boy is messy, received a one-day unpaid suspension and had a letter of reprimand placed in her file.

The incident involved Debbie Hayes, an educator at Bowers Elementary School who has taught kindergarten in Roane County for 38 years.

Dr. Toni H. McGriff, director of Roane County Schools, called the March 16 incident "simply unbelievable."

In her reprimand letter, McGriff told Hayes she was "appalled with the actions in this situation.''

"It's a black eye on the profession,'' McGriff said Monday. "It's a black eye on our schools.''

Another educator walked into Hayes' classroom March 16 and saw kindergartners encircling their crying classmate.

"The students in the circle were 'oinking' and making pig sounds at the little boy,'' the reprimand states.

The educator who witnessed the incident told Principal Candace Lett that afternoon. Hayes and Lett met the next day in McGriff's office to discuss the episode.

During that meeting, Hayes said she was "tired of the student's messiness," according to the reprimand.

Hayes, according to the letter, had repeatedly warned the child to be neater but on March 16 told him, "Your area looks like a pig sty. Oink. Oink."

Students in the classroom told authorities that Hayes told them to encircle the child "and call him a pig and make pig noises," according to the reprimand.

Hayes in the meeting told McGriff she didn't notice the children had begun the taunting, "but did agree that it was inappropriate," the letter states.

McGriff on Monday said she didn't have "any reason to believe it was the entire class" involved in the episode.

"To have this happen is simply unbelievable and undermines everything we try to teach children about how to treat each other," the reprimand letter states.

Hayes' one-day suspension from her job, which pays $44,283 annually, went into effect March 18.

McGriff in the reprimand told Hayes she would be allowed to report to her classroom that morning and apologize to the students.

"Hopefully, a heartfelt apology will have some mitigating effect on the damage that was done," McGriff's letter states. McGriff on Monday said she assumed the apology was given.

McGriff said other parents have complained about Hayes' classroom behavior "over the last couple of years." Those gripes, McGriff said, "were not all of the same nature."

Other than the reprimand, the only other document in the veteran teacher's personnel file is her employment application. She transferred to the Roane County School System from the now-defunct Harriman City School System in April 2003.

Hayes had five days to respond to the reprimand letter and initially indicated she planned to do so, McGriff said. No response, however, was submitted, she said.

McGriff said the school principal offered to transfer the child who was taunted to another classroom, but the mother declined.

Efforts to contact the mother were unsuccessful.

Hayes didn't respond to inquiries seeking comment.