Was Detroit teacher within law when she hit fighting students?

Pershing High School student fired after using broom to hit student who was beating on another student

DETROIT - Latanya Hall's daughter returned home from Pershing High School on April 30 and told her mother about two classmates fighting in school.

When she saw the video, she said she believes it was more than a fight. She believes it was a criminal assault.

"It's kind of scary because anybody could have got hurt. It was an assault and I feel as though if the teacher got fired then the boys should be charged with like assault and battery or something," said Hall.

Teacher Tiffani Eaton broke up the fight by striking one of the students with a broom. Insiders say typically Detroit police would be called for a fight this violent. Since an employee was involved and struck a student, the details would be turned over to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office for possible charges against the students or the teacher.

None of that happened.

Instead, the state of Michigan group which runs the school -- the Education Achievement Authority -- fired Eaton the next day (May 1) for violating the state policy on corporal punishment.

The Michigan revised school code states corporal punishment is the "deliberate infliction of physical pain as means of discipline."

View/download: Michigan revised school code excerpt on corporal punishment

Watch the video:


Eaton struck the student to stop the fight and immediately stopped striking him when he got off the other student.

The law states that a school employee may use "reasonable physical force upon a pupil as may be necessary for one or more of the following:

(a) To restrain or remove a pupil whose behavior is interfering with the orderly exercise and performance of school district or public school academy functions within a school or at a school-related activity, if that pupil has refused to comply with a request to refrain from further disruptive acts.
(b) For self-defense or the defense of another.
(c) To prevent a pupil from inflicting harm on himself or herself.
(d) To quell a disturbance that threatens physical injury to any person.
(e) To obtain possession of a weapon or other dangerous object upon or within the control of a pupil.
(f) To protect property."

This knowledge of the law raises a couple questions: Why did the students beating on each other only receive suspensions -- for 10 days -- and was Eaton actually within the law?

Eaton's attorney released this statement on Wednesday:

"It is unfortunate that in a schoolhouse, people who commit crimes are treated better than our super men and women who are underpaid and overworked. We expect our teachers to not only educate our children, but to be first responders in the event of an attack, emergency personnel, leaders and, in this case, a police officer. We feel that the school district viewed this incident improperly and that the remedy is grossly unfair."

-- Jeffrey Lance Abood, Abood Law Firm

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