A St. Landry Parish high school principal and a coach arrested in an altercation with a student will not be prosecuted, District Attorney Earl Taylor said Thursday.
Beau Chene High School Principal Anthony Keith James, 49, was booked on a count of simple battery, and coach Lorenso T. Williams, 29, was booked on a count of cruelty to juveniles after the Sept. 30 incident.
“While abuse of students will not be tolerated, school officials must have the latitude to use reasonable means to maintain order in our schools,” Taylor said in a written statement. “Teachers and other school personnel are sometimes called upon to make split-second decisions that might affect the safety and security of all students at the school.”
The student, a juvenile whose name has not been released, accused James of pinning him down and Williams of throwing him against a wall of lockers, an account corroborated by witnesses, according to each man’s affidavit for arrest.
St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office Detective Amelia Bourque wrote in the affidavit that she saw a bruise, cut and scrape on the student’s back when she interviewed him the day of the incident.
The student told detectives that Williams, the coach, threw him and dragged him against the lockers when attempting to discipline him for not tucking in his shirt.
Williams said “he brought the child into the locker room to speak to him and that (the student) was cursing at him and not listening” and he “tried to keep the child from leaving” before taking him to an assistant principal’s office, according to the affidavit.
When the student became irate and tried to leave the office, James, the principal, told detectives he had a “tussle” with the student before he pinned him to the ground and held him there for 15 to 20 minutes until law enforcement arrived.
Taylor said in a statement that prior court cases have laid out a standard that teachers may use “reasonable force to maintain order in the classroom or on school grounds.”
“The reasonableness of the action taken must be judged by the immediacy and exigency of the circumstances, and the surrounding circumstances must be considered when making a decision whether or not to file criminal charges in this type of situation,” Taylor said.
Taylor declined to discuss the particulars of the incident.
James and Williams have been on administrative leave pending the investigation.
St. Landry Parish schools Superintendent Edward Brown did not return calls Thursday on the status of their employment, but School Board member Huey Wyble, whose district includes Beau Chene, said Brown told him James and Williams likely will return to school this week.
“We are happy to have them back,” Wyble said.