A Ponchatoula Junior High student forcibly restrained by two teachers during a March 28 fight in the school's courtyard sued the educators and the Tangipahoa Parish school system Tuesday, claiming the teachers used excessive force and gave her a concussion.

The teachers, Arthur "Rusty" Barrilleaux and Brett Chatelain, were fired after a video of the incident went viral and sparked public outrage. Their terminations also raised larger concerns across the school district about teacher training for violent student behavior and their job security.

The video shows the two teachers trying to pin the 14-year-old girl on the concrete, with one of them cursing the student as the other drags her by the leg.

The lawsuit, filed by New Orleans lawyer John S. Williams, says the girl was in the school's cafeteria at lunch when someone threw food and hit her in the head. The girl went to a small courtyard outside the cafeteria, where other students identified the female student who threw the food.

A fight ensued between the girl and the other student after a brief verbal confrontation took place, the suit states.


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The suit claims the 14-year-old girl "had long been the victim of bullying" at the school, and that the bullying had been reported to various Ponchatoula Junior High teachers and administrators at least five separate times.

Her school schedule had been changed in the weeks leading up to March 28 in hopes of stopping the bullying, the suit adds.

She is seeking monetary compensation for mental pain, suffering, anguish and embarrassment; extreme humiliation and adverse notoriety; loss of self-esteem; current and future medical treatment, psychiatric treatment and/or psychological counseling; damage to her reputation; diminished or delayed psychological development; and legal expenses and other costs.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans against Barrilleaux, Chatelain, the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, Tangipahoa Schools Superintendent Melissa Stilley and Ponchatoula Junior High Principal Mary Beth Crovetto.

Barrilleaux has appealed his termination in the 21st Judicial District Court, saying his intervention prevented injury to Chatelain, other students and adults.

Stilley, in an April letter to Barrilleaux, called his actions too forceful and out of line with teacher expectations.

The teachers' terminations prompted some Ponchatoula Junior High employees to stage a walkout the morning of May 9 to demand clearer policy on how they should intervene whenever student fights break out on campus.


Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.