'Assault' or defense?

In Fort Bend, Texas, teachers are coming to the defense of an associate principal charged with aggravated assault for tackling a student who threw a water bottle in a cafeteria food fight. As an administrator, Andre Credit isn’t in the union, but teachers think police didn’t investigate thoroughly before filing charges.

Police said Credit grabbed Edgar Arellano, 18, around the throat, threw him to the floor and choked him after Arellano threw a bottle.

Teachers complain police ignored faculty witnesses and relied on students, who were allowed to compare stories with each other before signing statements.

“Campus sources” say Arellano was in trouble frequently and bragged about gang membership; his MySpace profile also alludes to gang membership.

A student witness, who said she wasn’t interviewed by police, said the associate principal did nothing wrong.

“Edgar was in the middle of the trouble and Mr. Credit took him down. I don’t see what was wrong with that,” the student said. “Mr. Credit just wanted the whole thing to stop before somebody got hurt.”

Flypaper finds the story “hilarious on several levels,” possibly because the school is named George Bush High. I have to agree with the first commenter. It’s not all that funny.

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  1. Margo/Mom says:

    The article has the usual assortment of defenders of the principal’s actions–particularly grounded in the fact that the student threw a bottle (with subtext that he had a history of gang activity). Now putting aside my personal belief that it is possible to avoid a cafeteria climate that is conducive to “food fights” or rampant assault, I do believe that it is necessary to look at the principal’s actual actions, which were to throw the student down and to choke him. This doesn’t appear to be disputed–what is in dispute is the opinions of witnesses regarding whether this was warranted given the setting behavior of the student.

    Now–I know very few schools that care a fig about setting behavior when they are looking at student-student engagement. I also don’t know that it figures very heavily in a courtroom–although it might. Choking is not an appropriate response to student (or other human) behavior.

  2. What was the correct response?

    Ignoring it?

    Calling the police?

    If the adult was expected to break up a fight, what technique was he supposed to use?

    Using his classmates to break it up?

    Getting a team of adults to break it up?



    Waving his finger?

    Was the adult trained to deal with this?

    In another life I broke up a lot of fights. I put my hands on a lot of young men and a few women. I was not a teacher. I had no special training. My Chief said I was not expected to use minimum necessary force. I never had to choke anyone, but in those days a police choke hold was acceptable. I grabbed a guy by his ear once. Fortunately, it did not come off and it saved the kid from a Special Court Martial. He did not appreciate it. Once you get within arms reach things happen fast and do not follow a script. My goal was to break up the fight and keep them apart after I succeeded. Breaking up the fight was usually the easy part. My usual problem was the loser wanted the fight to continue and would provoke the other by screaming obscenities. I can easily imagine choking occurring after breaking up a fight while trying to restrain one boy from reaching the other.

    The description in the news sounds like the adult may not have even needed to lay a hand on the kid, which may be why he was charged.

    Do they teach this in Schools of Education? What was to School/District policy?

  3. Margo/Mom says:

    First–I don’t assume that the correct action was a “response,” but a prevention. The tone in most cafeterias I have seen is set by the fact that no one wants to be bothered with students outside of their classroom. “Lunchroom duty,” is not seen as related to education, but a sort of babysitting chore that falls to either the lowest person on the teacher totem pole or an administrator. I cannot recall a time I ever saw more than a single adult with responsibility for students in a cafeteria. There is a reason that all the fights break out in the cafeteria, the hallways or while buses are loading.

    By high school, students really can handle a pretty high level of responsibility–but not without some adult guidance and structure. What this may look like is a student committee (facilitated by an adult) to set and communicate reasonable expectations. It may involve the creation of acceptable activities during noon hour.

    Now, all that said, IF there is a fight (and I am not at all clear that there was a fight per se–a food fight is less about conflict and more about doing something stupid), there are ways to intervene that do not include choking. Two adults can grab arms from two sides rendering the student incapable of further bottle throwing–even if both are smaller than the student–but this does suggest that the single adult in a cafeteria ruled by anarchy is inadequate. I haven’t seen too many administrators without walkie-talkies, lately, however, so other adults might easily have been summoned. Removing bottles from reach, is another strategy that might have been appropriate.