Dane Co. DA: No charges will be filed in Whitehorse Middle School incident

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- A Madison school teacher and behavior coach will not be criminally charged following an incident at Whitehorse Middle School in February.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Tuesday he will not criminally charge the teacher.

"In this case, I do not believe a crime was committed," said Ozanne about the incident at Whitehorse Middle School.

According to the Madison Police Department's investigation report released Tuesday, police and the Madison Fire Department responded to Whitehorse Middle School on Feb. 13 at 9:27 a.m. after a parent called and reported her African-American 11-year-old daughter was assaulted by a teacher at the school.

The 80-page report contains statements from the student and teacher involved in the confrontation, witness statements, and descriptions of scene photographs and surveillance video.

According to the report, a classroom teacher called the school office for support after the student did not comply with orders to sit in her seat. A special education assistant arrived and tried to get the student to leave the classroom and the student wouldn't leave.

The report states another teacher, who is also a positive behavior coach, responded. According to the statement the student gave police, the behavior coach and the classroom teacher walked out into the hallway and she closed the door. She stated the behavior coach opened the door and tried to get her to leave the classroom. She told police he tried to push her out the door and he "punched her in her left arm with a closed fist."

In the report the student told police she also hit the behavior coach and he pushed her into the lockers and "slammed her onto the floor." She also claimed her braided hair extensions were ripped from her head.

According to the behavior coach's statement, when the student tried to close the door, he stuck his foot in to prevent the door from slamming. He told police the student then opened the door and started to punch him in the face and head. In the report, he told police he started to push her forward out of the classroom and "wrapped his arms around [the student's] upper body."

The behavior coach also told police he walked the student back into the lockers and the special education assistant was trying to intervene. According to his statement in the report, the three of them fell to the floor during the confrontation. He said he never grabbed the student's hair. The behavior coach also stated after a school security officer arrived and relieved him, the school's principal was notified of the situation.

The Madison Metropolitan School District placed the behavior coach on administrative leave.

On Tuesday, Ozanne said in a press conference, he was aware about the public's narratives about the incident and said as a person of color in the community, he is aware of racial inequities and challenges some people are facing.

"These daily challenges are exhausting, and traumatizing, " said Ozanne. "Therefore, it is completely understandable that some people have reached conclusions about what occurred at Whitehorse Middle School. However, in this instance, some of those conclusions were premature, and not accurate."

Outside the room where the press conference was held, the mother and grandmother of the child involved in the incident were angered by Ozanne's decision.

"I knew in my heart just by the process was all over the place, that all they care was they was not locking up this white teacher," said the student's mother, Mikiea Price. "He had done no wrong, and they covered it from day one."

"It's going way further than this," said the student's grandmother, Laronda Bryant. "So y'all ain't never seen the last of me, because I stand for my child, and my grandchild."

A MMSD spokeswoman released a statement after Ozanne's decision was announced stating, "Based on the DA's decision, we will now use all available information from the police reports to understand every fact, and take appropriate action. Schools exist to nurture, uplift, and care for students. We must take every action to ensure that is true for every child. The employee will remain on leave while we complete our review and determine next steps."

Last week, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said that these incidents have caused harm to Black students, their families, and our community.

According to the police report, the behavior coach received non-violent crisis training in August 2018. He also had advanced physical hold-supine training in September 2018.

NBC15 reached out to Madison Teachers, Inc., a local union that represents teachers employed by MMSD. They referred all comments to the behavior coach's attorney.

NBC15's Leigh Mills spoke on the phone with Jordan Loeb, the behavior coach's attorney. Loeb said his client didn't want to comment on Ozanne's decision on Tuesday because he does not want to add to any more pain or suffering for the student.

Loeb also says his client believes the anger related to the experience of some African-American students in the Madison community is justified and says we need to do better for the students.

The confrontation was captured on the school's surveillance system. NBC15 requested the video from the Madison Police Department. The records custodian said it will not be available for two weeks.