Kalamazoo school administrator will not be charged after breaking up fight in lunchroom
KALAMAZOO, MI — A school administrator who is accused by the family of a Kalamazoo high school student of “tapping her to the ground” will not face criminal charges.
The Kalamazoo County District Attorney’s Office dismissed a potential assault charge against a Kalamazoo Public Schools administrator after reviewing detailed investigative information from the Kalamazoo Township Police Department.
An assistant prosecutor told MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette that the administrator’s actions were “in order to avoid harm to other students, staff and the student herself.”
According to the police report for the Jan. 11 incident in the dining hall at Kalamazoo Central High School, the school administrator told police he was trying to pick up and take the student away from school. a fight when he fell. According to the same police report, the student told police that he “kneaded her to the ground.”
MLive obtained the police report through a Freedom of Information Act request this week. The school district also conducted its own investigation, but it denied MLive’s FOIA for this report.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Scott Brower said the charges were dismissed due to insufficient evidence. According to the police report, the charge being considered was aggravated assault.
“After a thorough review of witness testimony and the security video, it was clear that the female student involved was in an extremely agitated state and appeared to be a danger to herself and others,” Brower said in a statement to MLive. “The staff member’s actions were done with the intent of preventing injury to other students, staff and the student herself. In the circumstances, his conduct does not meet the elements of a criminal assault.
According to the administrator’s statement to the police which is included in the police report, the administrator said he tried to defuse the situation after he was called to the dining room following a report of a fight. This administrator also told police that the student ignored his demands and continued “her pursuit of other students in a very combative manner.”
The staff member told police he tried to pick up the student to get her out of the situation, but “slipped” and ended up on the ground. He then said he hovered over her to protect her from blows from other students, according to the police report.
He told police he was punched in the head and back, but was eventually able to get up and escort the girl out of the cafeteria.
The student told police during their investigation that she was trying to fight off another student when the administrator grabbed her by the waist, lifted her up and “pinned her to the ground”, according to the police report.
She said the hospital where she was treated thought she had a concussion and an elbow injury.
The student told police she didn’t think “he should have picked her up and tackled her to the ground,” according to the police report.
Jennifer Coker, the girl’s mother, said her daughter told her she was not involved in the fight.
The girl is currently undergoing physical therapy for back injuries, Coker said. The young girl is also traumatized and afraid to return to school, she said.
The mother said an adult should never use such physical force against a teenager, whether they fight or not. Coker said video footage of the incident clearly shows her daughter was intentionally knocked to the ground.
“Even if she was fighting, what gives you the right to smack someone over the head?” said Cocker. “It’s like a (wrestling) move, it’s not something you do to a kid.”
According to a statement from a school resource official, the girl was “very aggressive and would not stop the aggression towards other students,” the police report said.
The officer said the girl was ‘completely out of control’ and he believed the administrator was trying to protect other students and had no intention of hurting the girl.
Another witness to the incident told police the administrator had “no choice” but to tackle the girl in order to stop the fighting, according to the police report.
In security camera footage reviewed by police, the girl was seen screaming and waving her arms in the cafeteria. The administrator is seen trying to stop her, but she bypassed him to reach other students. The staff member grabbed the girl around the waist and tried to drag her out of the cafeteria.
According to the police report, the girl continued to flail her arms and legs, then the administrator tackled her to the ground. After getting to her feet, the administrator escorted the girl out of the cafeteria, according to the report.
The school district conducted its own investigation into the incident. A FOIA request for the investigative materials was denied by the district, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The district attorney argued that the investigative record included disciplinary proceedings involving students and was therefore defined as school records protected by FERPA.
MLive has appealed this refusal and is awaiting a response.
The district provided the administrator’s personnel file, which included a letter describing the results of the district’s investigation.
In the letter, Kalamazoo Public Schools Human Resources Assistant Superintendent Sheila Dorsey-Smith said the administrator was trying to break up the fight and had no intention of hurting the student.
The staff member tried to defuse the situation, but the girl was “pushing back and kicking her legs, trying to free herself to fight off the girls on the other side of the crowd,” the letter said.
“When you attempted to turn around with the student kicking and pushing you, you lost your footing and fell while still holding on to the student,” the letter reads. “Once downstairs, you rolled over her to protect her from attacks.
“Under the law, you have the right to use force to protect students from harm or others,” the letter reads. “You were trying to break up a fight and restore order in the cafeteria. There was no intention to harm the student, just to defuse the situation in the cafeteria.
The administrator returned to work on Monday, January 24, the letter states.
School district management could not be reached for comment.
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