FUSD will look into Bullard campus incidents that trustee says posed a safety risk

Video shows altercation between Bullard High School student and Fresno Unified trustee

Video footage obtained by The Fresno Bee on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, after a public-records request shows a physical scuffle between a Bullard High School student and Fresno Unified Area 7 trustee Terry Slatic.
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Video footage obtained by The Fresno Bee on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, after a public-records request shows a physical scuffle between a Bullard High School student and Fresno Unified Area 7 trustee Terry Slatic.

The Fresno Unified trustee seen on video in an altercation with a Bullard High student wants an investigation into what he describes as prior on-campus incidents involving that student.

In a statement released Thursday, trustee Terry Slatic alleged that the minor has been involved in several other incidents both before and after the Jan. 11 altercation, citing unidentified sources at Bullard. Slatic says the school failed to address teachers’ concerns, including getting needed counseling and resources for the student.

FUSD spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog said the district cannot release disciplinary information about any student, including whether a specific student was involved in a campus incident. But Idsvoog said the district did agree to an independent investigation of what Slatic described in his statement, primarily because district officials believe Slatic’s version of events is untrue.

Attorney Roger Bonakdar, who has been representing the student, did not return a request for comment on Slatic’s statement.

Fresno Unified Area 7 trustee Terry Slatic watches proceedings at the FUSD school board meeting Wednesday night, Jan. 16, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA

Slatic’s statement

Slatic cites a March 20 incident in which a student led campus resource officers on a chase on the Bullard campus. Slatic said the incident involved “several firearm wearing law enforcement officers,” including some driving golf carts and one who dived to tackle the student. Slatic says media reports identified the student in that incident as the same student in the Jan. 11 altercation, though those media reports also cite only anonymous sources.

Idsvoog said an off-campus incident spilled onto the Bullard campus on March 20, but a lockdown was not called and there was no threat to other students. Idsvoog said some P.E. students were taken inside a cafeteria, but that doors were not locked.

Slatic’s statement calls out Bullard principal Carlos Castillo for downplaying the seriousness of the incident in a voicemail to Bullard parents. Castillo told parents that the March 20 incident posed no danger to the campus.

“As the parent of a Bullard student who was on campus during this pursuit, I demand an explanation of how the Principal of the largest high school in the Fresno Unified School District could possibly fail to be aware of the information of which I have become aware and, as a result of this failure, believe that this lengthy pursuit posed ‘no safety risk’ or ‘danger to our campus,’ ” Slatic says in his statement.

Slatic further alleges that a student recently assaulted a physical education teacher and a campus safety assistant on campus. Idsvoog said that characterization is not accurate.

Slatic says in his statement that he has obtained emails regarding the student shown in the Jan. 11 video dated to the fall semester that show teachers attempting to bring the student to the attention of district staff. Slatic told The Bee that the emails were sent to him directly from the teachers. A prior public records request by The Bee showed Slatic had previously asked the district for data on complaints of threats and “incidents of assault, battery, threats and violence” at Bullard. Slatic says he has not received that information.

“The story here is the tragic failure of the Bullard High School administration to listen to the front line staff, the classroom teachers and the campus safety assistants, who see these at-risk students and try, repeatedly, to communicate to the school administration that the system is failing these students and that additional resources are desperately needed to support and, hopefully, save these students who these front line staff have identified, as is squarely in their job descriptions, as needing additional resources that are not available at this school site,” Slatic says in his statement.

First investigation and next steps

Slatic’s statement was released the week after a report by an independent investigator found that Slatic likely first approached the student shown in the Jan. video due to profane and disrespectful comments by the student, but that the minor made no threats until Slatic grabbed his backpack.

The report contradicts a statement Slatic gave to a campus resource officer the day of the incident, in which Slatic said that the student had threatened to kill him as Slatic and his district liaison, Michelle Asadoorian, walked past the snack bar area in which the student was waiting.

The investigator also found that the video released by the district did not support Slatic’s statement to other media that the student had reached into his backpack as Slatic approached him. Slatic said he intends to provide his own “frame-by-frame” accounting of the video.

An investigation by the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office resulted in no charges being pursued in the Jan. 11 incident.

School board president Claudia Cazares said the board has discussed the investigation, and has no plans at this time to comment publicly or pursue a further action such as a censure.

Cazares added that calling for an additional investigation is under the purview of the superintendent.

Superintendent Bob Nelson said he agreed to an external investigation into the incidents Slatic described in order to determine exactly what happened on those days. He added that it is unusual for a board member to be so involved in the discipline of a single student, as board members typically only act on the expulsion of students at the district.

“Our goal is to provide a safe learning environment for all our students,” Nelson said. “The conversation around this incident has been dehumanizing to both the trustee and the child, and that’s not in their best interests, nor is it in the best interests of the district.”

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Aleksandra Appleton covers schools for the Fresno Bee. She grew up in Fresno before attending UC San Diego and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.