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DC Teacher Arrest Sheds Light On School Problems

11:02 PM, Nov 6, 2010   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- On the day after a charter school teacher in DC was arrested for punching a student, both volunteers and students at the school call the incident a "cry for help."

The alleged happened at Rock Creek Academy, located in the heart of Van Ness on Connecticut Ave.  On Thursday night during a special parent/teacher event, Art Teacher Joe Coleman allegedly punched a 16-year old in the mouth, knocking out his tooth.

Coleman, 38, of the 4000 block of Lane Pl. NE now faces felony assault charges. Police say he hit the student after the teenager was messing around, grabbing his hat. 

On Friday, Coleman was not in school and students say they were told he was fired. 

"Mr. Coleman was a very cool person," said Landon Mills, a senior at Rock Creek Academy.  "I looked up to him. I respect him and it saddens me that he had to get fired because of what happened."

Mills was among a handful of students that told 9NEWS NOW they blame both the student and the teacher.

"I understand they both were wrong," said Rayshad Anderson.  "At the same time, Mr. Coleman is not the type of man to do something like that.  So I think something needs to be done at the school to prevent these types of things. Tthis school is out of control.  It has no structure whatsoever."

Volunteers Byron Ezell and Taria Nelson agree.  They run a  non-profit called Come Back to Give Back.  This past year, they've spent Tuesdays and Thursdays working with Rock Creek students, who have a variety of disabilities.  They said they believe an assault was "bound to happen."

"The students have a lot of issues," said Nelson.  "The students and the school have a lot of issues. They come from a lot of issues and they bring those to the school.  And when they leave, they are usually worse off than before they came.  Ther'es a lot of money being wasted on the future of students and the end result is they have no future at all."

"I felt like it was soemthing that was bound to happen at some point because these kids are filled with frustration and they're not able to express it in a positive manner," said Ezell. 

Nelson can sympathize with how teachers feel.  She said it's a Catch 22.  The students misbehave because they're pushed to that brinking point in at home and outside of school.  Than their actions in the classrooms push teachers to a brinking point.

"I don't blame the teacher.  I don't blame the student absolutely positively not.. it's the condition - and that was a horrible horrible incident waiting to happen. And honestly, this is just the incident that the public knows about because there was a police report."

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