LITTLE ROCK — A Watson Chapel School District teacher is entitled to back pay for work she missed after developing post-traumatic stress disorder on the job, the Arkansas Court of Appeals said Wednesday.

LITTLE ROCK — A Watson Chapel School District teacher is entitled to back pay for work she missed after developing post-traumatic stress disorder on the job, the Arkansas Court of Appeals said Wednesday.


The appeals court upheld a Jefferson County circuit judge’s ruling that the district must pay June Vilches for 39 days of work that she missed between October 2013 and January 2014. The district had appealed the judge’s ruling.


Vilches testified during a bench trial that on Oct. 8, 2013, she saw a student she did not recognize in a hallway and asked him for his identification card. She said the student, who was more than a foot taller and about 70 pounds heavier than Vilches, called her a derogatory name, swore at her and pushed her into a wall.


After experiencing nightmares, headaches and several sleepless nights, Vilches said, on Oct. 11, 2013 she went to a doctor who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder and advised not to return to work at that time.


Vilches went back to work on Jan. 15, 2014. After the superintendent and school board denied her requests for pay for the days she missed, she took the district to court and won a ruling that she was entitled to $6,649 in damages and $9,160 in attorney’s fees.


The school district argued on appeal that other teachers who testified at the bench trial did not say they saw the student push Vilches into a wall. In its opinion Wednesday upholding the circuit judge’s ruling, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals rejected that argument, saying the diagnosis and the circuit judge’s ruling did not hinge on whether Vilches was pushed.


"The diagnosis was based on her elevated blood pressure, the pain she described in her head and chest, her blurred vision, and the fact that she was not her ‘normal self.’ Moreover, the court heard all of the testimony, specifically did not find that Ms. Vilches had been grabbed or pushed, and found that she had been assaulted and suffered personal injury, PTSD, because of the assault," the court said in an opinion written by Judge Rita Gruber.


The court also rejected an argument by the district that the award of attorney’s fees was excessive, saying the district presented no evidence to support that argument.