Education

Parent Arrested in Dispute With Teacher at Napier School

The leased building on Ellison Street where the incident took place.

 

PATERSON, NJ – Khadijah Smith went to her son’s school on Monday to drop off some pizza for his lunch. The 36-year-old parent ended up leaving the building in handcuffs after being arrested on charges that she committed aggravated assault for striking a teacher.

And it all stemmed from an incident earlier in the morning when Smith’s son, a seventh grader, passed gas while he and other students were taking the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) standardized statewide test. Other students in the class laughed.

Sign Up for E-News

That much everyone seems to agree upon. What happened in between the pizza and the handcuffs is a matter of dispute.

Smith said her son’s teacher had called her about the classroom disruption and Smith said she told the teacher would deal with her child when he got home from school. Her subsequent visit, Smith said, was simply to drop off the pizza at 137 Ellison Street, which is where upper grade students at Frank Napier School attend class while the regular Napier building undergoes repairs.

While she was at the school, Smith said, she ran into the principal, Rosalie Bespalko, in the hallway. The principal told her that her son was pulled from the testing and would have to retake the test some other time, Smith said.

The police report says that Bespalko asked a teacher, 55-year-old William Pursley, to join her conversation with the parent. Purlsey said the youth was purposely farting, according to the police report. The teacher and parent began arguing, the report says. Smith then stuck her finger in Pursley’s face and told him he did not know who he was “messing with,’’ according to the report.

The report says Smith assaulted Purlsey as he moved away, and the teacher “sustained a minor scratch near his left eye and on his left forearm.’’ The report does not say exactly how Smith assaulted Pursley. The report says that Purlsey’s version was confirmed by several school employees, including Bespalko, who witnessed the incident.

But Smith gives a different account. She says the teacher intervened in her conversation with the principal without being invited into the discussion. She said she was trying to explain to Bespalko that sometimes her son passes gas because he cannot control himself. At that point, she said Pursley stepped in and said her comments reflected a common problem, that too many parents condone their children’s bad behavior.

During their discussion, Smith said, the teacher cursed at her. She then began speaking with her hands directed towards Pursley’s face when the teacher pushed her hands aside, Smith said. At that point, Smith said, she hit the teacher’s forearm.

School employees then called police. Smith was arrested and said she was held in custody until 8 pm on Monday. During an appearance at municipal court on Tuesday morning, Smith said she was told the case against her would be referred to Superior Court to determine if it was an indictable offense.

Meanwhile, Smith said she has filed simple assault charges against Pursley.

It was not clear whether the school district was taking any action regarding the simply assault charge filed against Purlsey. When asked about that in an email, district spokeswoman Terry Corallo said, “We will not comment on the charges brought against the parent at this time as this is currently a legal matter.’’

Some community activists say the school district overreacted by calling in police and authorities overreacted by filling aggravated assault charges against Smith. They also said the incident highlighted the poor relationship between many parents in the city and school staff members.

“I don’t see the reason for what they did,’’ said one activist, Quincy Battis, who said he has known Smith for about 25 years. “Did she come into the school with a pistol or a knife? No. She only wanted to drop off the pizza.’’

Battis argued that the conversation should have been between just the parent and the principal and should have been held in the principal's office, for privavcy."he butted in,'' Battis said. "He just added fuel to the fire.''

“To us, this arrest was another form of violence against the community,’’ said Bilal Hakeem, of the Power Coalition, a city activist group.

Corallo would not comment on the activists’ assertions. She said Smith’s son would take the NJ ASK test on Wednesday.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Like

Sign Up for E-News

Paterson

Upcoming Events

Tue, October 24, 7:00 PM

River Edge Public Library, River Edge

Safety Considerations in Alzheimer’s Disease

Health & Wellness

Sun, October 29, 8:30 AM

Bergen Community College, Paramus

Alzheimer’s New Jersey’s Annual “Walk to Fight ...

Giving Back Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_df7633fcd2482d6bfee8_bgg

Mon, October 30, 6:00 PM

The Brownstone, Paterson

Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic ...

Giving Back Police & Fire

Letter to the Editor: Vote YES on Ballot Question 2

October 22, 2017

If you are concerned about having clean water and clean air in New Jersey, you should vote YES on Ballot Question Number 2 on Nov. 7. Voting yes on this question is voting to use funds collected from natural-resource damage claims against polluters to fix the damage done, or, if that’s not possible, to restore nearby areas. If passed, it would prevent these moneys from being siphoned ...

Campaign Urges Paterson Drivers and Pedestrians to be 'Street Smart'

October 19, 2017

PATERSON, NJ – Drivers and pedestrians travelling in the vicinity of the Passaic County Administrative Complex and Court House will notice an increase in law enforcement officers addressing speeding and distracted driving and walking in the coming month.

The Street Smart NJ Campaign kicked off on Wednesday  with participating organizations, including the Passaic County Board of ...

Steve Lenox Franchises TAPinto Paterson

October 23, 2017

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ -  Public affairs professional Steve Lenox has franchised TAPinto Paterson. 

 

Steve has nearly twenty years experience working in and around local, county, state and federal government. Since 2010 Steve has owned and operated Lenox Counsulting, a full service public affairs firm. With helping communities tell their stories as a cornerstone of ...