Baker teacher’s lawyer says she committed no crime

An attorney for a Baker Middle School teacher accused of assaulting an eighth-grade student last week said the Baker Police Department violated her civil rights and should have never arrested her because she didn’t commit a crime.

“Based on the facts, there was no battery and I think (Baker Police) Chief Mike Knaps has a misunderstanding of the Police Department’s role in a free society,” attorney Yigal Bander said Tuesday.

Bander is representing teacher Deborah Anderson, 47, who was handcuffed at school Thursday, placed in a patrol car and driven to the Baker Police Department before she was transferred to East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and booked with simple battery.

Bander said Anderson had to spend about three hours in jail before she could post bail.

Both Baker School Superintendent Ulysses Joseph and School Board President Dana Carpenter have said Knaps and his officers were too aggressive when they decided to book Anderson after she was accused by a 13-year-old student of pulling at his shirt for failing to tuck it in his pants.

Bander said Knaps wasn’t qualified to be police chief.

When contacted Tuesday, Knaps said the case has been turned over to prosecutors with Baker City Court and he had “no further comments” about the arrest.

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

Knaps has said the department protocol is to book an adult on battery charges when the victim is a juvenile.

That policy was not followed when a similar incident occurred last month with a male paraprofessional at the school.

The officer investigating the incident issued a misdemeanor summons to the educator instead of booking him and taking him to jail.

Knaps has said that was a mistake by the officer involved and the officer was disciplined for violating protocol.

Anderson, who was released from jail Friday morning after posting bail, was asked by school officials to come back to school Tuesday.

“I called her last night and apologized about the way she was treated. We asked her to come back to work because we couldn’t find anything internally she did wrong,” Joseph said Tuesday afternoon.

Bander asked Anderson not to comment on her arrest but said the Police Department put out some information last week that was inaccurate.

Knaps said last week that Anderson had refused to give the police officers investigating the incident a statement providing her side of the story. Knaps said that was partly the reason she was booked.

Bander said that account wasn’t true.

“She did talk to the officers and gave her side of the story. Later, she asked for an attorney. She even gave a written statement to school officials,” he said.

Bander said all Anderson did was put out her arm to stop the student from entering her class because his shirt was untucked and asked him to tuck it in his pants, per school policy.

Bander said the student called the teacher a “bitch,” cursed at her, he refused to tuck in his shirt.

“In fact, my client was the one who was battered,” Bander said. “Her arm was red and sore after.”

Bander said Anderson did not grab the student’s shirt, but even if she had, he said, state law would protect her.

The law — LSA-R.S. 14:18 — states an offender’s conduct is justifiable when “the offender’s conduct is reasonable discipline of minors by their parents, tutors or teachers.”

Bander said that’s something he would have expected Knaps to know.

Bander added school officials did not call the police, the student’s mother did. He also said school officials pleaded with police not to arrest the teacher.

The student’s mother, Charity Schofield, said last week that she was called by one of the school’s assistant principals and was informed her son was in the school office upset because a teacher “snatched” him.

Schofield later called police to investigate the incident.

Joseph called Anderson’s arrest inexcusable.

“The idea that the police comes to the school and arrests a teacher in front of her peers and her students is just horrible. Not just for the teacher,” Joseph said. “I’m trying to recruit teachers to this district. What do you think they would think when they read about this?”

Anderson’s arrest sends a bad message to teachers statewide on dealing with discipline, said Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers union.

Joseph said Carpenter wants to set a meeting between the School Board and police to devise a better way to deal with incidents of this kind.

Anderson is slated to appear in Baker City Court April 29 to address the charge.