Barely a day after a Buddy Taylor Middle School teacher was jailed on a battery charge against a 14-year-old student, a 15-year-old Flagler Palm Coast High School student was arrested and charged with battery against a faculty member at the school.
The middle school teacher, Jeffrey “Rocco” Paffumi, faces a misdemeanor. The student faces a felony charge, because battery against a teacher is a felony-class crime under Florida law. It was the second such charge the 15-year-old faced in five months.
On Aug. 28, a fight had broken out at the school. Kerry Ellis, a 60-year-old math teacher, was attempting to keep other students from converging toward the fight by standing in the hallway and holding his hands up. Two students were rushing his way. One of the two stopped. The other “intentionally got in his face and stated, ‘Get the fuck out of my way.’,” according to the student’s arrest report. The student then “intentionally used his shoulder to shove himself into Mr. Ellis’s shoulder in order to get past him.”
Campus security attempted to detain him, but the student resisted until a school resource officer brought him under control. It was the same 15-year-old student involved in the incident Thursday.
A school resource officer had been summoned to respond to a fight between two students in a hallway. Robert Rhoads, a faculty member, was attempting to break-up the fight, according to the student’s arrest report. The deputy observed the student allegedly “striking Mr. Rhoads in his back as he was positioned behind him. Mr. Rhoads was then able to get in front of [the student] and restrained him against the wall with the assistance of Dean Erin Davis.”
While the student was being restrained against the wall, “he again began actively resisting the efforts of both school staff members who were trying to keep him away from the fight and in a safe manner,” the deputy reported. “As I approached them trying to keep him against the wall, I observed him shove Erin Davis in a manner that caused her to stumble back.” The student, the report goes on, “was then successfully restrained and escorted back to the Dean’s Office without further incident.”
The sheriff’s office released a 67-second video clip from the deputy’s body cam. The footage does not show the fight that had drawn the deputy. It starts as the student is briefly in close contact with Davis, next to Rhoads. On two occasions the student pushes Davis away with his right hand or arm while trying to get around Rhoads, though she does not seem to “stumble” (the force of the shove is more akin to the sort of shoves or bumps students might experience in hallways during crowded class change-overs). Davis stays with him and appears to patiently speak with him: he was not “restrained,” but rather walked with her, putting his hood on, toward the administration offices, at which point the camera pans back to the main lobby.
The deputy reviewed surveillance detected the boy at another location, “along the straight hallway with his shirt off trying to fight another student.” (The fight did not take place.) The deputy noted that “Neither victim sustained any injuries.”
“We will not tolerate any kind of violence inside our schools,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in a release. “If you batter school personnel or other students you will be charged. I hope this is a wakeup call for this juvenile and he gets the help he needs or the courts and the Department of Juvenile Justice take his violence seriously.”
It’s been a difficult week for school officials. On Tuesday, Paffumi, a 47-year-old teacher at Buddy Taylor Middle, was arrested after he forcefully removed a student from his classroom. The incident was caught on video by another student. The incident has since drawn national attention and a continuing local debate about the use of force. Superintendent Jim Tager said “The actions of this teacher are not consistent with how we expect our educators to act.”