Student to face charges after assaulting Gwinnett County teacher

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Another student intervened in the incident

A Discovery High School student who assaulted a teacher will face criminal charges and disciplinary consequences, according to the school’s principal.

The incident took place just before 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to a letter sent by Discovery Principal Marci Sledge to the school community. The teacher wasn’t identified.

“I want to reassure you, we are taking this situation very seriously,” Sledge said. “Using physical violence to attack students and/or staff will not be tolerated at our school. It is not only against our school disciplinary policy, it is against the law.”

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She commended another student who intervened to break up the incident.

“I want to thank the student(s) who stepped in and stopped the student from attacking the teacher. They acted in a positive way, like true Titans, and their actions are representative of the vast majority of our students,” Sledge said.

However, others in the class recorded the fight and “attempted to upload it online,” Sledge said, adding that they may have helped plan the attack. She said the school is looking at issuing disciplinary consequences against those students.

Channel 2 Action News posted a blurred video of a student hitting a teacher. The teacher’s wife told the station that her husband spoke with the student’s parents about his poor performance in class the previous day. The teacher was left dizzy with a bloodied mouth and head injuries, she said.

“I just want the students and the teachers to be safe, because my husband signed up to be a teacher. He loves his job,” she said.

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The district has heard numerous concerns throughout the school year about student behavior and new discipline policies that staff and school board members believe inadvertently caused teachers and principals to drastically reduce disciplinary consequences.

Gwinnett reported 638 fighting incidents involving 947 students from August through October compared to 473 incidents involving 724 students in that same span a year ago. There have been more instances of students bringing alcohol, blades, BB guns, guns and marijuana than last year.

Critics have pointed to recent lockdowns and violent incidents, including the fatal shooting of a student near Norcross High School, as evidence that discipline policies are not working.

There were a couple of mentions of the video recorded at Discovery at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening organized by school board Chair Tarece Johnson.

Meadowcreek High School teacher and parent Laura Paiser said during the town hall that she’s felt her hands are tied when managing her classroom. She’s not opposed to an empathetic approach and building relationships with students — two hallmarks of the new discipline policy — but she feels teachers have been disempowered to do anything when students act out or disregard instructions.

John Winstanley, founder of Gwinnett-based internet safety consultant Fort Safety, attended the town hall to speak as a panelist about student mental health. He said in a phone call Wednesday that seeing videos depicting school violence can be traumatic, causing fear of going to class.

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Winstanley believes schools and parents should talk more about the content young people are seeing and about what they may be posting or sharing. He said it’s not uncommon for students to repeat the behavior they see.

Winstanley said he and other mental health professionals who spoke at the town hall are coordinating next steps with Johnson.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Caroline Silva contributed to this article.