An elementary school teacher was placed on paid leave for washing a boy's mouth out with soap after he shouted an obscenity (search) at a classmate.

Lori Thomas, 48, who has taught for six years at inner-city School 22, said she was stunned when a 10-year-old boy directed "a vile, very nasty sexual reference" at a third-grade girl in March.

Thomas said she didn't want the boy, who had frequently been sent home for unruly behavior, to earn another one-week suspension.

She took the boy to the nurse's office, she said, "put a drop of soap of his lower lip, washed it out immediately and told him I never wanted to hear filth like that coming out of his mouth again."

"Old-fashioned ways work," she said unapologetically.

The boy behaved for the remainder of the day and didn't complain to his foster mother, Thomas said. The boy's brother told district officials what had happened, she said.

Thomas was suspended indefinitely. The district could either fire Thomas — even though tenure provides such teachers "a lot of protection" — or level "a lesser amount of discipline," said Joanne Giuffrida, personnel chief in the 6,000-employee school district.

"I wish we could have handled this more expeditiously too," Giuffrida said. She said an investigation will likely be completed within two weeks.

More than 40 relatives of children in Thomas' class have asked for her to be reinstated.