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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Teacher Decks Student for Playfully Insulting His Favorite Football Team

     On November 8, 2013, 13-year-old Reginald Wells, a seventh grade student at Willie Ray Smith Middle School in Beaumont, Texas, got the surprise of his young life. In the hallway between classes he encountered 24-year-old substitute math teacher, Michael Fisher. Reginald, in a jovial attempt to attract the teacher's attention, made an insulting remark about Fisher's favorite professional football team, the Houston Texans.

     The teacher's immediate response to the boy's innocent comment shocked everyone who witnessed it. Fisher punched the student hard in the shoulder. This act alone, at the very least, constituted grounds for dismissal. But the incident didn't end with the shoulder punch. When Reginald reacted by pushing the teacher away, Michael Fisher struck the boy twice in the face then delivered an uppercut that sent the 4-foot-eleven inch eighty-pounder sprawling across the hallway floor. The teacher's big punch also knocked the boy unconscious for a few seconds.

     When Reginald regained consciousness his face was numb, his lips sore and swollen, and the inside of his head pounded in pain. Someone at the scene summoned a school security police officer who escorted Fisher out of the building. The officer did not, however, take the teacher into custody. Later that day the principal fired Michael Fisher.

     Reginald Wells' mother, the moment she learned of the assault, filed a complaint with the Beaumont Independent School District Police Department. She assumed that school officials would in turn report the incident to the Beaumont Police Department.

     At some point, an officer with the Beaumont Police Department questioned the fired teacher who said he felt remorse over his actions. The county prosecutor's office, however, did not followup with criminal charges. Moreover, no one from law enforcement interviewed the victim of the assault. Reginald's mother had no recourse but to hire an attorney.

     On December 19, 2013, six weeks after the middle school assault, attorney Kevin Laine told a reporter with a Beaumont television station that the school district had still not reported the crime to the local police. According to the lawyer, a school surveillance camera had recorded the attack on video tape. Mr. Laine said he had been unable to acquire a copy of that footage.

     The lawyer also told the television correspondent that, "statutory law in Texas requires a reporting of such an act to child protective services and the local police department."

     Melody Chappell, an attorney with the Beaumont Independent School District, told a reporter that the district was not required by law to make the surveillance tape available to Wells' attorney or to the public. Chappell said the school district had acted correctly by notifying the boy's mother of the incident. Notifying the police was her responsibility.

     If a local prosecutor has charged Michael Fisher with Reginald Wells' assault, there has been no coverage of it in the media.  

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