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Riverdale administrator fights for job

Tribunal deliberations set for Friday

Photo by Johnny Jackson 
Attorney Borquaye Thomas (left) sits with his client, Genghis Shakhan, Tuesday 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, Tuesday 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 — A tribunal is expected to begin deliberations Friday in Genghis Shakhan’s employment hearing. The assistant principal at Riverdale High School is on unpaid administrative leave.

He is accused of using unnecessary force to restrain students in three different altercations last October. Two are special needs “individualized educational plan” students.

Teresa Reese is the personnel review officer for Clayton County Public Schools. She testified Tuesday on her investigation into the two Oct. 19 altercations and the other on Oct. 23.

“It troubled me that we had three allegations of undue force by this educator within a three-day work period,” said Reese.

Reese said she interviewed Shakhan and viewed surveillance video from two of the three October incidents. There was no video of the second incident.

She testified that Shakhan appeared to have a “choke hold” around students in both videos and they reacted more violently to him.

“It seems like the situation goes bad when you make contact with the student,” she said. “So, why would you continue in this [way]?”

Assistant Principal Lonnie Farmer continued his testimony Tuesday.

“Many of our students have personal issues that sometimes spill over at the school,” said Farmer.

He testified that behavior issues are routine matters at Riverdale High and it is not uncommon for administrators to have to break up fights.

Farmer said he has had to restrain students and confiscate “knives, pepper spray, chains” from students on campus. He said Shakhan, the school’s primary administrator in charge of safety, has also confiscated weapons from students.

Farmer and Shakhan both participated in Mindset training last summer to help get agitated students under control without physical restraint.

“Mindset training teaches you how to handle upset students, de-escalate verbally and guide students in a different direction before restraining the student,” said Farmer. “Mindset training is more about de-escalating and not breaking up physical fights.”

Farmer acknowledged he diverges from Mindset training.

“We do have large kids,” he said. “If it’s a high number of students, you just have to do the best you can to get them separated.”

Stephanie Barnes is the security officer for Riverdale High. She was a witness in the first incident Oct. 19 and was involved in helping to calm the female teenager.

“I’ve had to deal with her in the past,” Barnes said. “She was upset, saying things that weren’t appropriate.”

Barnes testified that the student was resisting Shakhan’s restraint.

“I can’t tell you why he had to restrain her like that,” said Barns, adding that she got more agitated when she was restrained.

Witness Marcus McKinney testified that he did crowd control during the second incident Oct. 19.

McKinney is the in-school suspension facilitator at the school. He described the student as “a pretty stout fellow.” He said the male teen did not comply with his orders that day either.

Tommy Lewis Ector Jr. is the athletic director and physical education teacher at the school. He gave testimony on Shakhan’s involvement in restraining the student in the first incident amid a crowd gathered in the cafeteria.

“He was trying to move her (the student) away from that area, away from the other students in detention,” Ector said. “I have no reason to believe he would harm me or anyone else.”

Ector said the atmosphere at Riverdale High can be volatile on any given day.

“I would say that we have a large number of disciplinary problems from a small group of students,” he said.