Video footage released Wednesday shows a physical scuffle between a Bullard High School student and Fresno Unified Area 7 Trustee Terry Slatic.
In the security footage released by FUSD after a public-records request from The Bee, Slatic and his assistant, Michelle Asadoorian, walk by the snack bar area at Bullard on Friday afternoon during Super Snack, a free meal served by the district.
They appear to turn to a student, whose face has been blurred by Fresno Unified before releasing the video to protect his identity as he is a minor. The video has no audio.
After a few seconds, Slatic walks toward the student, who attempts to walk away. Slatic grabs the straps of the student’s backpack and attempts to pull him in the opposite direction, toward the front office. The student then pushes Slatic away and the backpack drops on the ground. The two pause for a few seconds, during which time Asadoorian walks toward them.
The student retrieves the backpack a few seconds later and runs off.
Slatic, a retired Marine Corps major, said Tuesday he views the incident as indicative of safety issues district-wide. He said he ran for his seat because he felt the district had not done enough to address past instances of threats, including one against one of his own children at Bullard.
“My No. 1 reason for being on the board is safety,” Slatic said. “Once all the facts become apparent to anyone who’s interested, this will come to be regarded a tipping point in the conversation about safety at Fresno Unified.”
Slatic was elected to his seat in November, replacing former trustee Brooke Ashjian, who endorsed Slatic.
Slatic said he will continue to visit campuses as part of his work as a trustee.
Trustees meet about incident
The Fresno Unified Board of Trustees met Tuesday afternoon in a closed session to discuss the incident and potential litigation that may come of it, but reported no action following the meeting.
Board president Claudia Cazares said that board members were on the same page after the meeting, but added that she has not felt unsafe while visiting district sites.
“In the times I’ve been on campus both as a mom and a trustee, I have not felt that way,” Cazares said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for us to improve.”
Superintendent Bob Nelson said Fresno schools are often bastions of safety in the otherwise chaotic lives of many students. He added that he feels Slatic acted outside of the scope of his authority as a board member.
“Any individual board member does not have the right to engage in discipline or dictate the day-to-day operations of a school,” Nelson said.“The board has three main jobs: hiring and firing a superintendent, keeping the district financially solvent and determining the policies of the district by majority vote, in our case, four trustee votes.”
Nelson said he does not have the authority to bar Slatic from any campuses, as the superintendent is the employee of the board. Slatic could only be censured by the board or removed from his seat by voters, according to Nelson, or kept away from campus by a parent filing a restraining order.
The district will deploy additional counselors to Bullard for any students who feel they were affected by the incident or the footage, Nelson said.
Retired Bullard teacher Emily Brandt, who said she taught two of Slatic’s children, said some teachers are upset over the incident.
“There is a move among teachers and members of the community to recall him,” Brandt said. “I think the concern is how is he going to handle future incidents? Should we expect more like this?”
Fresno police were investigating on Monday but have deferred comment to FUSD spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog, who said Wednesday that the investigation is being turned over to the Fresno County District Attorney’s office.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright said his office had not received the complaint and was not sure if it would be investigated as a criminal matter.
Idsvoog added that the student has been contacted by the school and is doing O.K. He remains in classes.
A regular board meeting, the first one of the new year, was set for Wednesday. The board did not discuss the incident, though three members of the public expressed their anger during the public comment period. Slatic gave a brief report at the end of the meeting wherein he asked Nelson for updates on various issues he says he’s found within the district, such as dry rot on the roof of Fresno High, and the ongoing portables replacement at Starr Elementary.
Aleksandra Appleton: 559-341-3747, @aleksappleton