A high school official in Providence, Rhode Island, resigned from his position after a video of him pinning an African-American student to the floor went viral, sparking severe criticism and controversy.
Central High School Assistant Principal Thomas E. Bacon, who had been working for the school district since 1994, was caught on video assaulting 15-year-old Amare Pemberton. The school administration told the police the altercation began after the teenager allegedly cut in the cafeteria line and Bacon attempted to escort him from the room.
“I tried to gently guide [the student], who then dropped his bag and raised his clenched fists,” Bacon said, adding the student began pushing past other students. Another teacher, identified a Michael Scott, also reportedly tried to assist Bacon.
The assistant principal said Pemberton “began throwing punches and elbows toward Mr. Scott and myself and yelling, ‘Touch me again boy, you’ll be face down. I’ll clock you.’”
Bacon claimed he struggled with the student and they both fell to the floor. That’s when he was filmed pining the teen down.
However, the student’s mother has disputed Bacon’s account.
“He was choking my son. He put a knee on my son’s chest,” she said. “In the video, everyone can see my son wasn’t being combative. He was complying with them. He was doing everything. There was no need for him to put his hands on my son at all.”
Police charged the 15-year-old with two counts of simple assault, but no charges were filed against the assistant principal.
“They charged my son with simple assault and he shouldn’t be charged,” the mother continued. “I didn’t expect my son to get assaulted when I sent him to school Monday. Now you’re telling me that he was attacked by someone who was supposed to be there to help him?”
Interestingly, two Central High School students who witnessed the assault recounted an account similar to Pemberton’s mother. Taylon Rodriguez, 17, and Alex Sanchez, 16, told the authorities Bacon grabbed Pemberton’s bag as he yelled, “Let me go.”
The students claimed the school official then shoved the student on the ground and put his knees on the teen’s chest.
“Mr. Bacon was getting in his face,” Rodriguez recalled.
Meanwhile, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and Superintendent Chris Maher released a joint statement announcing Bacon’s resignation.
“As of this morning, Mr. Bacon has resigned from his position with the Providence Public School Department effective immediately. While the Providence Police will continue their investigation, we will continue to meet with students, teachers and community members and take proactive steps to support our entire school community,” they said.
Maher also commented on the nature of the video.
“As superintendent, my main concern is always the well-being of our students and our staff,” Superintendent Chris Maher explained. “I think anyone who has viewed the video of the physical altercation between a Central student and a staff member was alarmed and dismayed by what they saw. In Providence Public Schools, we believe the only justifiable reason for restraining students – and it is always a last resort – is to prevent imminent, serious physical harm.”
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