Why doesn't the law work to protect my child at school?
By Yvette Smith
Antioch, California, August 2005

In order to protect their privacy, some children's names have been altered here.

My name is Yvette Smith. I am a resident of Antioch California. On the morning of March 5, 2004, my son Antwon Monroe, was fine when he left for school. When I took him home that afternoon, he was not fine. He had been physically assaulted and battered by a teacher. My complaint that the teacher's behavior was in direct violation of California Education Code 49000 and 49001 banning corporal punishment was ignored by the school, by the police, by the Department of Children and Family Services, by the District Attorney and by the Attorney General. Everyone who had the duty to deal with the situation, failed in that duty. They looked the other way. They pretended nothing had happened. Nobody listened to my son. When eye witnesses came forward telling what they had seen, their statements were ignored.

Antwon was 12-years old at the time he was attacked. According to his doctor, Nathan Hare, Ph.D., Psychology, PhD., Sociology, the effects on Antwon of this incident may be long-lasting. In his report, he diagnosed Antwon with Anxiety Disorder NOS and features of posttraumatic stress and generalized anxiety. He writes, "Children with Antwon's psychological condition most likely require three to five years of intensive outpatient psychotherapy - two to three years at a minimum - to achieve resolution and satisfactory psychosocial readjustment."

Here is a brief summary of events:

At Vallejo Middle School, on March 5, 2004, at about 11:55 a.m., 4th period class let out and students all headed to lunch. Antwon, with his friend Deborah went to M Building to join up with their friend, Jesse at the band classroom. They waited outside the door as students exited, but Jesse did not appear. Antwon then leaned into the doorway to see if Jesse was coming, but all the students had left and only the teacher and TA remained. Antwon greeted the teacher saying, "What's up, Mr. C?" The teacher responded by angrily ordering Antwon to get out.

Antwon and Deborah proceeded down the hall toward the exit. Then, Mr. C. emerged from the alternative classroom door and intercepted Antwon in the hall. In his own words, Antwon described what happened next:

"...So me and Debbie were leaving the building Mr. C. came out of the back door and grabbed me slammed me against the wall and my head hit the wall hard then he put his hand around my neck choking and I couldn't breath on my tippy toes so I used force to get him off of me so then Mr. C put power in his putting me in a headlock and said don't go there with me while Debbie's yelling stop! Mr. C replied stay out of this..."
You can read Antwon's full statement in the Vallejo Middle School Incident Report which I've enclosed.

See Antwon's written statement at

The attack on my son occurred in the presence of other students. Deborah Rodriguez, who was with Antwon at the time, says she and Antwon were walking to the band class to get Jesse on their way to lunch. She says:

"I was standing behind Antown when he stepped into the doorway and said Hi. Mr. C. yelled, 'Get out of my room.'"
Next, as she and Antwon proceeded to lunch, this is what she said occurred:
"The teacher popped out of nowhere and jumped in Antwon's face and started to go crazy... He used the back door as coming passed me with a red face he grabbed Antwon's arm... threw him to the wall and put him in a headlock and said you have to come with me. And pulling his arm and head. Antwon was sliding his feet trying to stop but the teacher then grabbed him by the neck and started to choke him..."
Antwon described how Mr. C., holding him by the neck, forced him in the band classroom, and how "He slammed me against another wall then Mr. C. put me in a different headlock and dragged me inside of his office and told me if I leave he'll call 911."

Mr. C. then left Antwon and returned to the hall to join his T.A. in clearing out students who had gathered to see what all the commotion was about. He called the campus supervisor to assist moving everyone out. Meanwhile, feeling frightened and confused, Antwon fled the office and, accompanied by Deborah, went to the attendance where he told Ms. Tamisha, the person in charge, that a teacher had beaten him up and he wanted to use the telephone to call home. She told Antwon to write an Incident Statement, which he did. He asked again to use the telephone but was denied.

Another witness, Albert Rogers, said:

"Harold Mitchell, Marsha and I were walking through the music room and Mr. C. was roughly grabbing Antwon and had him in a headlock and we were looking at him when some girl named Vallerie came out pushing on Frank and yelling, "Get out!" And she kept asking us did we want a referral and then she started pushing on the rest of us. Then Mr. C. came out and was pushing on us also, telling us to get out."

Anthony, Antwon's brother, made this statement (3/6/04):

"On friday when I was at lunch, Deborah Rodriguez ran up to me and said that Mr. C. had beet up my brother. on me and Debbie's way to the office we saw a group of girls that was standing by the music building, I asked them did they see what happened between Antwon and mr. c., they said yes, they said that antwon was walking by the mr. c.'s class and said Hi, and thats wen mr. c left out of the room ad attacked antwon. So after that, me and Debbie went to the office. Debbie waited outside, when I went into the office, I saw antwon in the Back of the room, looking like he had just got beatin up. His face was very red, and so was his eyes, his hair was all messed, it looked like mr. c. had just scraped his nuckles against his head, his neck was very red and looked very sore. I asked Antwon what happened, and he said that mr. c. had attacked him for no reason. that's when I asked one of the attendance ladies, can I use the phone to call my mom, she told me that, she doesn't want me to until they get everything settled. So, I left, I went and called my antie on somebody's phone because, I was not going to let them get this settled without one of our parent there, after I called my antie, I went to the principle, he was walking around the campus, when I told him what happened he said o.k and went about his business like he didn't even care, after that, I went to the vice principle, she was walking around campus with a trash stick, when I told her what happened, she said, o.k. and that she'll handle it, and that's when I went back to class.


everything I wrote is true to the best of my knowlege and everything I wrote, I wrote in my own words"

As soon as I received the call from my sister, I and my mother raced to the school. We arrived at about 2:15 p.m. I found Antwon waiting in the attendance office, sitting in a chair hunched over, looking frightened and depressed -- exactly as his brother Anthony described him. I asked him why he was waiting in the attendance office. Antwon said he was waiting for them to let him use a telephone to call me.

I asked him to tell me what had happened. He related the whole sequence of events in detail. (The essential points are covered in his written statement and the statements of the student witnesses.)

I paused Antwon's narrative when I noticed red marks around his neck and a bruise behind his right ear. Stunned, I screamed, "Call the police! Mr. C. choked my child!" I ran to the vice principal, Ms. Hawke, and said, "Please help, Mr. C. has assaulted my son!" She told me to wait. Then it occurred to me that I had my cell phone. I dialed 911.

We remained at the school and waited for the police. They never came. As 4:00 approached, we were told that we would have to leave because they wanted to lock the office and go home.

Mr. C's statement in the school's Incident Report is as follows:

See copy of the Incident Report submitted by Mr.C. at

"Antwon Monroe,once again, barged into (trespassed) my classroom and started his "jive." He has been told, numerous times, that he is not allowed in here to bother my class, or my teaching. I approached him in the hallway and told him to come with me to my classroom. He refused and started to walk away(run?) with a few friends. I stopped him and he actually tried to use force to physically get away. I restrained him by his arm and escorted him to the band room. I held him by his arm to get him in the room. He appeared to want to go but seemed concerned about some of his friends who were trying to egg him on. I got him away from these kids to calm him down in my office and told him to stay here as some of those friends were pushing a student of mine and were causing a further disturbance. I had one of the yard supervisors escort that student(s) away. When I got back to my office, lo and behold, Antwon had skipped out. The chance to talk to him, to calm him down and find out what was going on went out the door. Plus Antwon needs to know that I am not his 'NIGGER.' A further discussion of its usage, history may help enlighten him on what is acceptable and when. I don't believe that Antown's use of force (physical) was to attack me or to try anything ridiculous. My holding him was to make sure he didn't actually try anything. I have already left two phone messages at [deleted] and [deleted].

[Name deleted]"

The following day, the swelling and bruises on Antwon's eye were very apparent. When I went to work, I found this message on my answering service from Mr. C., dated 03/05/04:

Listen to the recording at

"Hello Mr. Monroe or Mrs. Monroe. This is Mr. C.. I just had a big problem with your son Antwon. Ah, number one barging in my room and then not wanting to leave and then getting into it in the hallway. So, I carried him into my room and he starts his stuff again. I settle him down in here to relax and he takes off. So, he will be getting a referral. But I just want you to know that I am not his nigger. Just so you know okay? And maybe he'll understand a little bit more about the history of the word when he wants to get involved and grow up. So, I'm to be issuing him a referral and I'll be sending it down to the office and I'm going to try you on the cell phone, okay? And I know from talking to parents that you'd appreciate knowing about his behavior. Thank you. Bye-bye."

The Police Department - Soon after 4:00 p.m., we arrived at the Vallejo Police Department where we were met by Officer Marcus Pugh (Badge #489). I told him what had happened at the school, and upon seeing the bruises on Antwon, he advised us to take him to the hospital. He said an officer would meet us there to take the report.

At Sutter Solano Emergency Room, Officer Park (Badge #536) took the report. When I told him I wanted charges pressed against the teacher who attacked Antown, he said, "Don't get upset when I tell you this, like other people do, but we don't handle these types of issues. Only the schools do." He said the only thing he could do is to turn in the report to the District Attorney's office and it would be their decision how to handle it. The report was filed on 03/05/04.

On March 9, 2004, I returned to the Vallejo Police Department to make an official complaint against the teacher. I spoke to Lt. Jackson (Badge # 343). After telling him what had happened, Lt. Jackson said, "You don't know your son. Your son is lying to you." I then offered him Antwon's written statement, a statement by an eyewitness and the teacher's recorded telephone message. He declined to take them. I was bothered by his refusal to look at the evidence and told him that the law should apply equally to all citizens. He responded by telling me, "If I go to the school and find out that your son did anything -- I do mean anything -- I will arrest him." I took that as a threat.

Sutter Solano Medical Center - Emergency Department Physician Record - The examining physician states under section Physical Exam, "Faint eruthema to R ant. neck, supra auricular, mid ant neck, R post auricular" Under section Diagnosis, "Contusions anterior neck, R post auricular."

Child Protective Services - I was told that their office does not deal with abuse that occurs outside the home.

See District Attorney Paulson's reply at

See California Education Code 44807 at

See California Education 49000 and 49001 at

The District Attorney - I requested of the District Attorney that the incident be investigated and that charges be filed against the teacher who attacked Antwon. District Attorney David W. Paulson's response of April 8, 2004 included the following:

"...the evidence is insufficient... The Education Code, section 44807, specifically allows a teacher to exercise the same degree of physical control as a parent..."
It seems to me that Mr. Paulson isn't aware that there is more to the California Education Code than the part he quoted, such as the part that specifically limits teachers' use of force. Or maybe he just told me what he wanted me to hear. He's right that 44807 says teachers can use the same amount of force as parents, but does that mean it's okay for parents to put their children in headlocks or bang them into walls? Mr. Paulson's letter doesn't quote the last sentence of 44807 which says, "The provisions of this section are in addition to and do not supersede the provisions of 49000." He doesn't say one word about 49000/49001 which states specifically under what circumstances teachers are permitted to use force. The standard set forth in 49000/49001 is not the same as applies to parents.

See Attorney General Lockyer's reply at

The Attorney General - I wrote to Attorney General Lockyer telling him what had happened to Antwon, and that the District Attorney had declined to take action. The response of June 7, 2005 by Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Ranen included the following:

"I am truly sorry about the trauma Antwon and you have experienced... California law gives discretionary authority to a locally elected prosecutor... I regret that we cannot be of further assistance to you."

The letter from the Attorney General's office also states that one possible reason for intervention would be if "there is an obvious abuse of the district attorney's legal discretion in deciding whether to file criminal charges." Apparently, Attorney General Lockyer believes Education Code 49000/49001 is not to be taken seriously, and that it's perfectly okay for District Attorney Paulson to ignore violators.

I believe if it had been a student who slammed a teacher into the wall or put him in a headlock, the outcome would have been very different. That student would have been taken into custody and charged immediately.

So there's the story. It is a shameful tale of unprofessionalism, gross incompetence and disregard for law by the very people who are supposed to uphold it.

I want to thank Mr. Riak of PTAVE for taking the time to come and talk with me and Antwon, and for studying the big folder of documents I gave him. I appreciate his advice and concern. After spending a whole year dealing with a lot of people who have an endless supply of excuses for not doing their job, it's nice to know there are others who truly care and are trying protect kids. I hope this information on Mr. Riak's organization's Web site helps others. Antwon says "Thanks."

Yvette Smith
Antioch, California

"Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contageous. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law, it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy."

U.S. Justice Brandeis (1856-1941)

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