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Riverdale assistant principal fights for job

Tribunal to determine whether he used unnecessary force

Photo by Johnny Jackson 
Attorney Borquaye Thomas (left) sits with his client, Genghis Shakhan, Wednesday during a Clayton County Public Schools employment hearing. Shakhan is an assistant principal at  Riverdale High School accused of unnecessarily restraining students in three separate incidents last October.

Photo by Johnny Jackson Attorney Borquaye Thomas (left) sits with his client, Genghis Shakhan, Wednesday during a Clayton County Public Schools employment hearing. Shakhan is an assistant principal at Riverdale High School accused of unnecessarily restraining students in three separate incidents last October.

JONESBORO — Genghis Shakhan, an assistant principal at Riverdale High School, is accused of using unnecessary force to restrain students in three altercations last October. Two are special needs “individualized educational plan” students.

The Clayton County Public Schools attorney recommended his termination during a tribunal that began Wednesday, as Shakhan and his attorney answered the charges. Shakhan is on unpaid administrative leave.

Winston Denmark, the attorney representing the school district, said that, while students were unruly and engaged in verbal attacks, none of the incidents rose to the level of physical threats.

Borquaye Thomas represents Shakhan and rebutted Denmark’s assessment, saying the incidents did escalate to physical threats to his client. He said one ended in the arrest of a student who was subsequently “charged with disruption of a public school and assault.”

Stephanie Banks is the hearing officer presiding over the case. Members of the tribunal — Linda Holloman, Samuel Jackson and Arletta Brinson — heard from their first witness in the case Wednesday.

Riverdale High Principal Jamille Miller-Brown testified on the investigation she and others conducted on the Riverdale High disputes.

Two altercations occurred Oct. 19 and another Oct. 23. Brown testified that the fracases were heated and animated but fell short of physical threats.

However, she did testify that she asked her secretary to call 911 during the first incident “because that’s just how disruptive the scene was.”

The verbal altercation Oct. 19 was between the female student and another male student in the cafeteria.

Miller-Brown said she saw the female student kick Shakhan after he restrained her and began walking her to the school office.

She said she received a report that the female student, after the altercation subsided, threatened to “spray up the school.”

“I interpret that as a terroristic threat,” said Miller-Brown, who added the student was suspended for her part in the incident.

The second incident involved a male student, who was upset that a headset had been stolen from him and who threatened to confront the student he believed to be the culprit.

“The second incident was very much like the first,” Denmark said. “The matters escalated as opposed to de-escalated.”

The student, weighing around 200 pounds, reacted violently to Shakhan Oct. 19 in the second altercation, according to testimony by Miller-Brown. She read from a statement taken during the school’s initial investigation.

The statement said Shakhan placed his right hand on the student’s shoulder to guide the student into his office and the student turned, cursed him and pushed him away. He fell to the floor and the student fell on top of him.

Miller-Brown said Shakhan was injured and left school early to seek medical attention. She said the student was arrested and charged with disruption of a public school.

The third incident happened Oct. 23 and involved an irate female student who threatened to fight another female student, said Miller-Brown. She said no student was injured during the incidents.

The second half of Wednesday’s hearing revealed that Shakhan was trained to train others in how to prevent aggressive and violent behavior.

Shakhan trained initially in January 2012 and again in June 2012 to be a Mindset trainer under John Bastarache, a K-5 behavioral specialist for Clayton County Public Schools.

Bastarache said Mindset training teaches administrators and educators, particularly those of special needs students, how to deal with potentially aggressive students in times of conflict. He said trained administrators are asked to contact the school resource officer if verbal communication with students is not effective.

“In Mindset, we don’t teach people to physically touch children,” said Bastarache. He said imminent threats are the judgment of the administrator about whether a student would cause harm if physical intervention is not done.

Thomas questioned the relevance of Bastarache’s testimony, calling it prejudicial.

“Our position is that Mindset training is not a training that is mandated by the district,” Thomas said. “It is not relevant here.”

Assistant Principal Lonnie Farmer also received Mindset training and testified Wednesday that he watched video of the first incident. He said he saw a student picking up a chair in the cafeteria and attempting to use it to hit another student.

“I could tell that she was clearly agitated,” he said.

Farmer said the student was asked to the office where “I saw Mr. Shakhan restraining the student. I witnessed the student kicking and yelling and behaving wildly.”

He said the student was handcuffed by the student resource officer and taken to his office.

Farmer said he viewed video of the Oct. 23 event. He said he saw two female students arguing on the video, one sitting and the other standing.

“Mr. Shakhan stepped in between the ladies to intervene,” he said.

The employment hearing will be continued Tuesday.