Classroom fight caught on tape

By Katie Herrera

CENTER POINT (WBRC) - A classroom fight is caught on cell phone video camera at Erwin High School, and now one parent is speaking out.

Byron Steele brought the video to FOX6 because he is concerned with the way the situation was handled. His son was hit and knocked to the ground in the fight.

From the video, you can see the teacher tries to step into the escalating situation. But when Steele's son is pushed by the other boy, neither boys will back down. The teacher stands between the boys for several minutes, but then he starts posing for the camera.

Eventually, the teacher throws his hands up and walks away. Then a punch is thrown by the other boy, and Steele's son is knocked the ground. You can see he struggles to regain his bearings as he stumbles to stand up.

"They left my son as prey," said Byron Steele. "He leaves my son to defend for himself. He does nothing to stop anything at any time. And my son is assaulted."

FOX6 asked Steele why his son did not back down, and why he in fact, appeared to be doing the antagonizing from the video.

"No, actually if you watch the video, my son got antagonized after he got pushed and shoved in front of the teacher by the other student. My son did not throw a punch, did not lay a hand. The other student struck first. And the teacher did nothing when he struck first," explained Steele.

FOX6 took the video to Erwin High School Principal Van Phillips, who told the story a little differently.

"I think the teacher thought he was going to be able to get the boys to comply… I saw a teacher make an attempt to get two young men to comply with him. they both refused to comply with him. The teacher stood in front of two young men to stop them from fighting," explained Phillips.

Phillips says the teacher was trying to talk the kids out fighting, and points out that in the video you can hear the teacher say "I'm trying to keep y'all here."

As for the posing, Phillips said,  "No, I see it as him trying to de-escalate the situation, trying to diffuse the situation. Sometimes you try to do it with humor, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But I believe that was his attempt in that particular environment."

And his explanation for the teacher walking away, Phillips said the teacher had walked away to press the call for assistance button.

"He tries to call the administrator. He says you guys are not going to fight, I'm going to call the administrators," said Phillips.

FOX6 asked Phillips why the teacher didn't just have a student call for help, so that he could stay with the boys?

"Well hindsight is always 20/20. You know after something happens, you always know well I should've done this or that," responded Phillips.

But Steele is also upset that his son did not receive any medical attention. After seeing the video, and his son barely able to stand up, Steele doesn't understand why no one told him his son was knocked out.

"And there was no call for assistance, no ambulance called. Not even that, they didn't even let me know when I picked him up that my son was assaulted and knocked out," said Steele.

"The SRO (school resource officer) ended up talking to the young man. And at the time he talked to the young man, he was very upset. It didn't appear to them that he needed any medical attention, he was trying to get back to the other kid to get a punch in," explained Phillips.

As for the teacher, Steele said he would like the teacher to be fired. Right now, the teacher is on administrative leave pending an investigation and review by the Jefferson County School Board.

"There will be an administrative procedure to follow while the teacher is one leave. We will look into the matter. I know the school takes this very seriously, as do we," said Dr. Phil Hammons, Superintendent for Jefferson County Schools.

"I will say that I don't think that's a fireable offense for the teacher," commented Phillips.

"This is where my son goes to school every day. This is where a lot of kids are at school every day. There's a lot of children that this can affect if it happens again. Not just my son, each and every kid. And who knows how many times this has happened, this is just the first time it was actually caught on video," said Steele.

"Whenever your child is involved in an incident where they come up on the short end of the stick, they're upset. 99% of the parents of children at Erwin are very pleased with the progress at Erwin," said Phillips.

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