School board approved system’s firing of teacher last week; teacher had expired license (but had not divulged that to ABSS)
A new lawsuit has been filed against the Alamance-Burlington school board, alleging that an unlicensed teacher violently attacked a 14-year-old student at Broadview Middle School, grabbing the student by her hair and repeatedly slamming her to the ground in November 2022.
The suit alleges that the now-former Broadview Middle School teacher, identified as Danielle Dixon of 3801 Fig Leaf Court in Greensboro, was not a currently licensed teacher but had been hired to teach at Broadview in mid-September of last year.
The lawsuit has been filed in Alamance County civil superior court by Deborah Claggett, of 2015 Landon Court in Burlington, who is described in the court file as the maternal grandmother of the student, a 14-year-old identified by the initials, “K.H.” Claggett also has been appointed to serve as the guardian ad litem for K.H, in order to represent the child in the lawsuit.
The semi-monthly personnel report that school board members approved on September 13, 2022 had listed Dixon as a certified language arts teacher hired to teach at Broadview on a contract scheduled to run through June 14, 2023.
Dixon was terminated, effective January 10, based on the personnel report that school board members approved at their latest work session last week.
The suit, which lists the school board and Dixon as defendants, asserts that Dixon had been working as a teacher, “with a license that expired on June 30, 2015,” and that ABSS failed to investigate Dixon’s teaching licensure status and allowed her to teach without a state license.
Prior to allegedly attacking the student on November 2, 2022, “Dixon had multiple issues within her classroom with other students and disciplinary actions by the [principal] of Broadview Middle School, all while not being licensed to be a teacher in North Carolina,” the complaint states. The complaint also points to ongoing staffing shortages at Broadview Middle School, which ABSS administrators had discussed with the school board earlier this school year.
According to the case background outlined in the suit, K.H. had “attempted to walk into her assigned classroom to retrieve her bookbag, when Dixon blocked her path with her arm while [K.H.] was approximately three inches away and still moving forward.” The child was unable to avoid making contact with Dixon, and when Dixon moved her arm into her path, this caused K.H. to strike Dixon in her arm, the complaint states.
Dixon allegedly grabbed the child and “pulled her inside the classroom while closing the door” and grabbed K.H. by her hair “and slammed the minor plaintiff into the door with enough force to break a broom that was located between [the child] and the wall and door area,” the complaint states, citing as evidence one of six still photographs taken from video, which was recorded during the incident and included in the court file. [Video recorded during the alleged attack was later aired by two nearby T.V. news outlets. Based on the still photographs, the now-former Broadview teacher Dixon is black, and K.H. is white, though nothing in the court file gives any indication that there was any racial component involved in the incident.]
“Dixon then grabbed [K.H.] by the hair on the back of her head and forcefully slammed [the] minor plaintiff to the ground…no less than five times,” the lawsuit alleges.
The court file gives no indication of any circumstances that may have preceded the incident.
The suit further asserts that, “During the assault and battery that was committed by Dixon, the students inside the classroom began yelling for Dixon to release [K.H.] and stop her unnecessary and violent attack upon the [minor child].”
Two other teachers at Broadview Middle School overheard the commotion, went into the classroom, and called for help, according to the suit. The complaint notes that K.H. had been unable to defend herself because of the size and age difference between herself and Dixon, who is described as “over two hundred pounds and in her upper thirties,” while the child is 14 and significantly smaller.
“The attack,” according to the suit, resulted in K.H.’s hair being pulled out, bruises, and ongoing emotional distress. The student also was initially suspended for 10 days “until video of the altercation was made available to local news outlets,” prompting the school system’s administration to reverse the suspension and transfer K.H. to Ray Street Academy, which is the alternative school for ABSS. The suit asserts that K.H. was not allowed to continue her education at Broadview and was forced to change schools “because of being a victim of a violent battery” by an ABSS employee.
K.H., through her guardian Deborah Claggett, is seeking more than $25,000 under each of multiple alleged claims for relief, including: assault and battery; negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of Dixon by the school board; negligent infliction of emotional distress by both defendants; intentional infliction of emotional distress by both defendants; and multiple violations of the N.C. Constitution, which requires the board to provide “a sound basic education…[and] to provide a safe environment for students to learn free of verbal abuse, physical abuse, hostility, and harassment.”
Neither Dixon nor the school board had filed a response to the lawsuit by press time.
The minor plaintiff, K.H., is being represented by attorney Jeff McMillion of McMillion Law in Graham.