Police Chief Knaps: Baker teacher jailed for 'yanking' student's shirt

Baker School Superintendent Ulysses Joseph says he thinks police went too far when they put a Baker Middle School teacher in jail Thursday after she was accused of grabbing a student by his shirt and yanking him out of her classroom.

Deborah Anderson, 47, 5031 Baker Boulevard, was booked with simple battery at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and put in jail, Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps said.

Knaps defended the Police Department’s decision to book Anderson by citing Police Department protocol.

“She snatched him, physically yanked him very hard. A teacher has no authority to do that,” Knaps said Thursday night.

Anderson couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday night because she was still in jail.

Another incident a few weeks before at the same school involving police was handled differently, with a summons for simple battery issued to a paraprofessional accused of choking a student.

The paraprofessional was not booked into jail, but Knaps said she should have been.

“Both should have been booked,” Knaps said. “That’s our protocol, and the officer involved chose on his own to issue a summons.”

Knaps said the officer who chose to issue the summons instead of book the educator has been disciplined but declined to elaborate further.

Knaps also said Thursday’s booking of Anderson might have had something to do with the department’s failure to book the paraprofessional weeks before.

Tamara Green said her son, a seventh-grader at the school, was involved in some kind of horse play on Feb. 10 and sometime during that, paraprofessional Johnnie Butler battered her son.

Green said Butler, who told officials he felt threatened by the student, held her son down on the ground by holding him by his neck.

Green said Butler should have been booked and taken to jail like Anderson.

Butler couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Joseph called Anderson’s arrest Thursday “a bit quick.”

“I think they were a little bit fast on that,” Joseph said.

According to a news release about Thursday’s incident, the victim and his mother told police that Anderson grabbed the child and made him stand outside the class because his shirt was not tucked in.

Police were called to the school at 10:38 a.m.

Other teachers at the school who said they did not witness the incident told police the victim seemed to be emotional and upset following the incident, Knaps said.

Knaps said another reason Anderson was booked was because she refused to give her side of the story to police.

“She wouldn’t give us a statement. So what are we supposed to do? We had no choice,” Knaps said.

Knaps said in the news release that Anderson refused to give a statement because she didn’t have an attorney present.

Joseph said the story he was given was the student was asked three times to tuck in his shirt by Anderson before he entered the classroom.

The boy refused.

“The teacher put out her hand to block the student from going into the classroom, but he got around her,” Joseph said.

Joseph said Anderson then pulled his shirt because he was resisting.

“We have to keep control with these kids,” Joseph said.

Knaps said you can’t just favor the teachers over the students.

“When a child is harmed, I’m always going to do what we have to do,” Knaps said.

Baker School Board member Doris Alexander said she trusts Knaps and his decisions.

“I’m sure the chief did what he felt like had to be done. I would never question his judgment,” Alexander said.

When asked about the choking incident, Joseph said the accused paraprofessional was put on administrative leave pending an internal investigation but would not comment further.