Black and blue

Black and blue

A 15-year-old incoming freshman student slated to attend Ozen High School is facing possible felony assault charges for punching the West Brook High School cheerleading coach in the face on Aug. 4, according to records from the Beaumont Independent School District Police Department.

The incident occurred inside West Brook’s boys’ gymnasium while a number of student groups, including the cheerleading squad being led by Cara Robinson, were practicing for an upcoming pep-rally.

The student, who was identified as Paul Singleton Jr. by several other students in the gym, was bouncing a ball and running in and out of the lines formed by the cheerleaders as they practiced. Fearing one of the girls would be injured during their routine, she said, Robinson told him to stop.

“There were two groups in the gym that day that had adults with them,” Robinson told The Examiner. “We did, obviously, and the ROTC did. There was also a group of about 20 kids out there without any supervision like they were supposed to have, and he came walking up the court dribbling a tennis ball and running in and out of the girls.

“They were in formation and he started weaving in and out of the girls like they were basketball cones or something, and then he started shooting baskets. So I walked over to him and asked him if he had lost his mind. He just looked at me and said, ‘What, what?’ I told him that he could not run in and out of the girls like that and to go sit in the stands. He was like, ‘Oh sorry, my bad’ and I said, ‘You are not stupid; you knew what you were doing. You need to go up there and sit in the stands.’ So he went in that direction and when he made it to the steps he turned around and I guess decided he was going to do it anyway and he went back onto the court and started shooting baskets again with the tennis ball. I walked over there to him and asked him to tell me the name of his coach and if I needed to get a coach to get him to do what I had asked.”

Robinson, who was holding her 5-month-old son at the time, said Singleton became aggressive toward her and replied, “I don’t even go to this school.”

She said Singleton lunged toward her and that is when she pushed him away in order to protect herself and her son. She said Singleton then bumped into the railing separating the gym floor from the bleacher area. and that is when he swung at her.

“He didn’t even get the words out, ‘Don’t touch me,’ before he was hitting me,” she said. “He hit me twice and I just stood there and looked at him like he was crazy. After that it was sort of a blur.”

She remembers several boys from the bleachers trying to assist her and that Singleton left the gym. Robinson said she tried to call the front office on her cell phone but the lines were down because of construction at the school, so the ROTC teacher went to find help. A short time later an officer arrived and began taking information before Robinson went to the hospital to be checked out.

“They did a CAT scan and checked everything,” Robinson said.

She said a BISD police officer asked her to identify the student and then she went home.

Singleton’s father, Paul Singleton Sr., told The Examiner that he was aware of the situation involving his son and that he had been contacted by the police. He said he was surprised because he said his son is not violent. He said he can only go by what his son has told him about the incident, but it was his understanding that Robinson had grabbed his son by his shirt.

“She told him to go sit in the bleachers, I believe, and he came back down and started playing ball again,” Singleton Sr. said. “She came up and grabbed him by his shirt and said, ‘Didn’t I tell you to get off the floor?’ He said she was in his face and was talking loud and that he said, ‘Get out of my face and leave me alone. OK, I heard you.’ That’s when she grabbed him, jerked him and pushed him and when he was trying to get away she didn’t let his shirt go and that is when he said he pushed her. I don’t know what really happened.”

Singleton Sr. said he took several names of his son’s friends so that he could contact them and get their versions of the story.Singleton Sr. said he wanted to see the video of the incident to find out if it showed Robinson pushing his son.

“He told me that she had a baby and that she pushed him and grabbed his shirt and he was trying to get loose and she didn’t let him go, so he pushed her or hit her or whatever,” he said. “I told him whatever happened will come out with the truth.”

When told that Robinson was afraid the younger Singleton would injure her or her son, Singleton Sr. replied, “It was wrong for her putting her hands on him. Somebody probably told her to say that she was afraid.”

He did confirm that his son was in a behavioral class at Vincent Middle School but denied that he had ever been in trouble for violence or fighting.

“That is like hyper, getting out of line and joking and playing. That is him,” he said of his son. “No, no, no violence like fighting on the streets or at school, no. That is why I kept saying, ‘My son hit somebody?’ I just couldn’t believe that.”

Since the Texas Penal Code classifies teachers as public servants, what might be a simple assault is enhanced to a felony, according to the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.

Attorney Lonnie Hollingsworth, TCTA’s director of legal services, said that just because teachers don’t wear a uniform doesn’t mean they aren’t public servants.“They are considered public servants, so if you harm a public servant by an illegal act, then it is a third-degree felony,” Hollingsworth said. “It used to be spelled out of the penal code but they rewrote it several years ago and it is listed in the definitions. But clearly they are a public servant and have always been.”

Hollingsworth said that while there is a lot of information available when a teacher hits a student, the opposite isn’t as widely reported.

“It happens frequently,” he said. “Remember you are dealing with student disciplinary records, and those are usually confidential. It can be prosecuted as a third-degree felony, but it is a bit of a problem because that is a serious charge and a lot of times the district attorney doesn’t want to pursue that charge, and they go with a misdemeanor.”

Hollingsworth said teachers who are assaulted are also entitled to take medical leave that does not count against them and provides them with full pay. He said the provision was written into the law several years ago as a protection for teachers.

“It is better than workers comp,” he said. “In fact, the statute allows for up to two years for assault leave.”

Despite an untrue rumor that BISD Superintendent Carrol Thomas had offered her $40,000 to keep the assault quiet, Robinson said she has not received anything from BISD. She said West Brook assistant principal Nancy Flores sent her an e-mail over the weekend and that she had spoken with David Harris, BISD assistant superintendent for secondary education, but she said he didn’t provide her with any information about taking assault leave.

“I went there yesterday (Monday) and had a conversation with Mr. Harris and asked him what I was supposed to do now, and he asked what I was talking about,” Robinson said. “I said that I knew the first step was to file a police report but I wanted to know what to do now, and he said, ‘That’s it.’ So I asked what the responsibility of the district was, and he said, ‘Nothing.’”

BISD Police Sgt. Aqua Delco said the officer who took the report had not finished his paperwork, but charges would be filed with the district attorney’s office soon. She said the department had not yet spoken to all of the witnesses.

“It is listed as an assault with bodily injury,” Delco said. “We have pulled the video to be submitted with the case, and we are investigating it and trying to get witness statements. Obviously, the video shows there was an incident. We’ve got the before and everything that happened and a little bit after it happened.“We will forward everything to the DA and let them take it from there.”

Delco said that several BISD police officers were familiar with Singleton Jr. and had spoken with him in the past.

Another source said that Singleton Jr. had transferred from Odom Middle School to Vincent Middle School in order to participate in the behavioral program referred to by his father.

West Brook Principal Bill Daniels said he has been in contact with district officials and has confirmed the student was an incoming freshman at Ozen High School. He said BISD has an open gym policy during the summer that allows students from any campus to participate at facilities throughout the district.

“I can confirm that he was not enrolled at West Brook High School,” Daniels said. “As soon as we heard about what was going on, we contacted the police department and they already had someone on the way.”

Daniels said several students and faculty who witnessed the incident provided the school with information that was later passed on to the district’s police department.At press time, Singleton had not been arrested and because he is a juvenile, much of the information about the case will be kept confidential.