Chiquita Handley said she didn’t realize how bad it was until she saw the surveillance video.
“I saw it and my heart just dropped,” she said. “It’s nothing anyone ever wants to see their child go through.”
Handley spoke exclusively with 11Alive’s Blayne Alexander, after obtaining surveillance video showing Pleasantdale Elementary School teacher Stephanie Fleet appearing to choke Handley’s son Ravon, then in the 5th grade. The incident happened on May 22, but Handley received the video months later, after filing an open records request with DeKalb County schools.
According to written statements from other students and teachers in the cafeteria, Ravon was being disruptive, using profanity and threatened to hit Fleet.
The surveillance video begins in the school cafeteria. It shows 11-year-old Ravon sitting at a table with other students, fifth grade teacher Stephanie Fleet comes up and snatches his chair from behind him.
From there, as the video shows, the situation escalates.
“She’s choking him from behind. She’s walking with him and choking him at the same time,” Handley said. “My son’s feet were lifted to the tip of his toes because of the force she used around my son’s neck, pulling back on my son’s neck.”
The video continues in the hallway, where two teachers escort the boy to the front office.
According to witness statements, what the video doesn’t show is Ravon misbehaving, using profanity and even threatening to hit his teacher.
In her written statement to the school district, Fleet said in part, “He raised his hand to hit me.” Of the restraint caught on camera, she said, “I thought this was an acceptable defensive hold for a student.”
After a district investigation, Fleet was suspended three days without pay, put on a professional development plan and given a letter of reprimand.
But after seeing the video, Handley said Fleet’s punishment isn’t enough.
“She choked somebody’s child, and she’s able to get back into the same building and teach,” she said. “If it was me choking my own child caught on tape, there’s no way that my two kids would still be in the house with me. She should not be teaching.”
DeKalb County School District spokesman Quinn Hudson released the following statement to 11Alive News:
Following an investigation and established administrative protocol, the DeKalb County School District Office of Legal Affairs supports the recommendation from Principal Terri Brown that Ms. Stephanie Fleet remain at Pleasantdale Elementary School and that she was placed on a Professional Development Plan and that she received a Letter of Reprimand and a three (3) day suspension without pay. The suspension without pay and letter of reprimand occurred on or about October 15, 2014.
Handley said she is now exploring legal action against the teacher and school district.
SOURCE: Blayne Alexander