Bullard High student allegedly attacks teacher, student; campus police officer slow to respond

Bullard High School.
Bullard High School. Fresno Bee Staff Photo

A female Bullard High School student allegedly assaulted a teacher and another female student Friday morning, but school officials didn’t call 911 to report the attack, police said.

Instead, school administrators alerted their school resource officer, who was not on campus during the attack, and allowed the student to go home with her mother, Lt. Joe Gomez said. She could face at least a charge of misdemeanor battery against a school employee.

In addition, Fresno police will recommend to the District Attorney’s Office that a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor be filed against the assailant’s aunt, Gomez said. The aunt is accused of goading her niece to go to Bullard and confront the victim, and of being present during the assault, he said.

Fresno Unified plans to take steps to bar the aunt from having access to the Bullard campus, district spokesman Jed Chernabaeff said. Her name was not released.

Teacher Roy Verduzco told The Bee around 12:30 p.m. that he was in the hospital. Police were unaware of this hospital visit, and it could lead to more severe charges.

The name of the suspect, a sophomore, was not released because of laws that protect juveniles. Gomez said just after 12:30 p.m. that the student’s mother was bringing her back to the campus to meet with police. She will not be charged for the altercation with her fellow student, he said.

Friday’s event is the third incident of campus violence since the school year began. In September an instructor at Roosevelt High was hit by a student, and a second attack at that campus later that month involved some girls.

Friday’s attack happened in Verduzco’s classroom around 8:30 a.m. Police learned of the attack nearly two hours later, Gomez said.

Gomez said Verduzco was in his classroom with other students when a small group of girls showed up at his door.

One of the girls in the group wanted to fight a girl in Verduzco’s classroom. When the girl entered the classroom, words between the two were exchanged, so Verduzco ushered them out of his class. That is when the suspect and the second girl, who is also a sophomore, had an altercation, Gomez said.

When Verduzco intervened, the assailant hit him in the head and shoulder, Gomez said. Verduzco, 53, had a bruise on his head. The other girl was hit once on the chin by the suspect.

The assailant was taken to the office but was allowed to leave with her mother, Gomez said.

Verduzco is the longtime Bullard boys volleyball coach who has a state-record 709 wins and seven Central Section championships in a 32-year career.

Chernabaeff said in an email that campus security assistants, who are not police officers, and administration members broke up the fight. They prioritized disciplining the students and assisting Verduzco, he added, which is why they did not call 911.

Seven safety assistants are assigned to the school, Chernabaeff said.

Officials determined that the incident warranted discipline for both students, he said. But Chernabaeff said state law limits providing details about what discipline will be levied.

Bullard is part of Fresno Unified Trustee Brooke Ashjian’s area. He said the student resource officer – the Fresno police officer assigned to protect Bullard and paid for by the district – wasn’t on campus during the fight.

“The school called him, and he told them he was working a later shift to cover the football game tonight,” Ashjian said. “He told them: ‘Be there in 20 minutes.’ It took him an hour and 20 minutes.”

Ashjian said this is a direct violation of district policy. An officer is supposed to be on duty at every Fresno Unified school during all school hours. The district has approved overtime pay for evening sports events.

“We don’t know if it’s a problem with the high school – did the campus tell him to go home and come back later? Was it someone from the district? Or was it the officer who decided to work later?”

Ashjian said that discipline – especially at Bullard – has become a major concern. There was another fight between Bullard students earlier in the week.

He hopes to install a vice principal whose sole role is to dole out punishment.

“This vice principal needs to have a hammer,” Ashjian said. “It can be used to smash or build, but they’ve gotta have both. We have to make this a safe place again.”

In Sacramento, three Florin High School students were arrested recently in connection to a fight in a classroom in which the school’s principal was thrown to the floor.

Tish Rice, president of the Fresno Teacher’s Association, said the district “is in denial” about discipline at its campuses.

“I don’t know how many assaults on students and staff it’s going to take for the district to solve this problem,” she said.

Rice brought up similar incidents within the district. In September, a Roosevelt teacher was assaulted by a student after he confiscated her cellphone. A cellphone video captured the beating, and the 15-year-old student was charged with one felony and two misdemeanors.

Later that month, two more 15-year-old Roosevelt girls were arrested for beating a third girl on yet another cellphone video.