Community support for middle school teacher charged in fight with student

CSRA News

The past few days have brought overwhelming public support for a teacher charged with simple battery after an incident turned physical in the classroom.

People who have viewed this video showing the middle school teacher push his student stand by the educator. 

A Change.org petition and tons of support are pouring in for Akenga Smith, a man charged with simply battery for his actions in the classroom.  NewsChannel 6 sat down with two men who have spent considerable time in Richmond County schools and they watched that video not once or twice, but multiple times and they still side with the teacher.

“We don’t go being prepared for ‘I have to look for little Johnny to attack me today.  I have to look for little Mary to attack me today.’  We go in looking for little Johnny to get that light bulb moment,” Keith New, a former Richmond County educator told us. 

It’s the video captured by cell phone from Akenga Smith’s Glenn Hills Middle School classroom seen nationally.  Once it hit social media, the support for the teacher came rolling in vouching for his character and questioning the conduct of the student.

New, who taught for more than a decade in Richmond County schools, saw that video too and he said he knows all too well what it’s like to teach insubordinate, unruly kids.  

“I had a kid try to attack me with a pencil,” he said.  “I had to physically restrain him to keep from being stabbed with the pencil.  I took him down to the floor and as soon as he got down to the floor, security officers and my principal was there.”

New added he was dealing with a student with schizophrenia in that insident.  Like that student, many kids are misplaced or not zoned properly. He said having good leadership helps, but preparing teachers for kids with behavioral problems would be best. 

“The lack of being trained and prepared for those situations would leave you to go on your own instincts,” New said. 

He’s not saying Smith’s decision was the right one, but he understands the situation.  

Quinton Sowell understands too after volunteering in Richmond County Schools, so he launched the petition in support of Smith.

“Students and parents of those students have to be held accountable for their children’s actions and the children have to be accountable for their own actions,” Sowell said. 

The petition calls for 1,000 signatures in support of giving teachers more “leeway” with deescalating “hyper-aggressive children in the classroom.”  Sowell also mentions he wants teachers to be able to defend themselves against aggressive children.  Outside of the petition, he wants the community to make sure every young male child has a male role model. 

“Any boy who has been around a man, whether it be an uncle, a father, an older cousin they know that you cannot step to a grown man and don’t have any consequences,” he said.

We do need to note that what happened prior to the incident you see in the cell phone footage is still a mystery and what prompted the altercation in the first place.  

The student in question is a minor, and his record as well as any disciplinary action will be confidential because of his age.

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