ST. PAUL – Are court officials in St. Paul also consulting with the Pacific Educational Group?
Many teachers, parents and residents have been angry at the St. Paul school district, particularly in recent months, for what they perceive as a lax disciplinary approach toward violent and unruly students.
They say the strategy has led to an outbreak of violence and resulted in student attacks on numerous teachers and other staff members.
Some of those critics will be even more angry this morning, after learning that a 16-year-old student who attacked and severely injured a teacher in December was sentenced on Tuesday to 90 days of electronic home monitoring, probation and anger management counseling.
The student, Fon’Tae O’Bannon, will also be allowed to return to school, according to CBSLocal.com.
The soft disciplinary policies in the St. Paul district are reportedly a product of the district’s consulting contract with the Pacific Educational Group, a radical organization that believes white students benefit from “white privilege,” and that black and other minority students are suspended or expelled from school far too often.
Many violent and disruptive incidents in St. Paul schools have been addressed in recent years with short “time outs” and other ineffective strategies, according to several teachers.
A lot of observers probably consider O’Bannon’s punishment yet another inappropriate response to a very serious incident – only this time by the court.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Jill Fedie, who prosecuted the case, recommended that O’Bannon be sent to a residential treatment facility to address his violent tendencies, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“He is an untreated and violent offender,” Fedie was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The sentencing came after O’Bannon’s attorney, public defender Diane Dodd, reportedly went to great lengths to rationalize his behavior.
Dodd argued that a video showed that the teacher, John Eklbad, was the first one to use force, even though he did so as part of his effort to break up a fight between O’Bannon’s younger brother and another student.
The lawyer said the teacher’s actions caused O’Bannon to “bump into a trophy case and suffer a concussion, and that’s when he took action against Ekblad,” according to the Star Tribune.
O’Bannon put the teacher “in a chokehold and slammed him into a table and chair, and onto the floor,” according to the Star Tribune. “Ekblad passed out for 10 to 20 seconds and was hospitalized with a concussion.’
Dodd also reminded the court that the judge in the case has stated that “teenage boys have under-developed brains,” the CBS report said.
The lawyer even argued against sentencing the teen in a manner that will prevent him from purchasing a gun in the future, and later indicated that she would appeal to get the firearm restriction lifted, the newspaper reported.
O’Connor’s parents also pleaded for lenient sentencing, describing him as a “good kid,” according to the news report.
“He’s trying to take good things from what happened here,” the boy’s father was quoted as saying by the Star Tribune.
“This has been a very, very bad nightmare for Fon’Tae,” the student’s mother, Venus O’Bannon-Hall, was quoted as saying by CBSLocal.com. “He’s hurt. He’s disappointed. He’s very apologetic.
“He’s not the perfect kid, but he’s not a violent kid.”
O’Bannon poke on his own behalf, reminding the court the court that “You guys are supposed to care.”