Stockton Unified police say the assistant principal, who is accused of striking student, was defending herself and another student
Multiple videos from bystanders show Stockton City Councilwoman and Edison High assistant principal Christina Fugazi breaking up a fight between students.
Community members expressed outrage on social media after video footage was posted online this week showing Stockton City Councilwoman and assistant principal Christina Fugazi breaking up a fight between students at Edison High School.
In separate videos provided to The Record, footage initially shows a fight breaking out between four students. The students are seen swinging at each other with closed fists as Fugazi, who was initially off camera, runs over and steps between two of the students, grabbing one around appeared to be the neck and shoulders in an attempt to separate the teens.
Fugazi was hired last month as an assistant principal. She previously served as a Stockton Unified School District high school science teacher at Venture Academy.
Barbara Barrigan-Padilla of Families for a Better School Board posted a short video of the fight on Twitter, claiming Fugazi, who is white, slapped a Black student.
Fugazi is seen at one point pulling her hand back to her chest and then swung the back of her hand toward an unidentified Black student.
Stockton Unified police reported that Fugazi had swung her arm backward to defend both herself and another student while trying to break up “a large fight” at Edison High School Tuesday afternoon. Fugazi’s arm did make contact with the student while she was attempting to block him, police reported.
Fugazi said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that she “in no way tried to hit a student.”
“We were de-escalating a contentious situation by separating students and one student continued to be an aggressor and was asked to get away,” Fugazi said. “He continued his forward motion and throwing punches. I put up my arm telling him to stop and to not allow the other student to get injured.”
Police reported that both Fugazi and Edison Principal Chris Anderson were injured during the altercation.
Administrators injured during altercations
According to a report from the Stockton Unified Department of Public Safety, Fugazi saw a fight occurring just before 12:30 p.m. between several students. She approached two of the students — identified as student one and student two — who were involved in a one-on-one altercation and attempted to break up the fight by pulling student two away, the district says.
Student one continued to approach and punched student two, who was described as being compliant, in the face as Fugazi pulled him away, police said. Student one then charged Fugazi and student two, once again swinging his fist at student two.
Fugazi then swung her arm backward at student one to protect both herself and student two, making contact with student two, police reported.
As she began walking student one to the school’s “‘B’ building,” police reported that Fugazi noticed an officer struggling to keep student one detained. Student one eventually broke free and punched student two several more times in the face, police said.
Student two “then punched Fugazi in the back of the head which later swelled into a lump,” police said. Fugazi reportedly told police she likely wasn’t targeted by student.
Fugazi also fell to the ground as student two pulled away from her, police reported. Both students then ran to a grassy area on campus and began fighting with each other again.
“I do not think he was intentionally trying to hit me however I could not allow another student to be injured,” Fugazi said. “I care about the well-being and safety of all students.”
Police reported that Fugazi sustained multiple injuries during the altercation, including a scrape/friction burn to the left ankle, swelling and bruising to the right hand, pain and swelling to the right upper arm, a lump on back of the head and bruised ribs.
Anderson also reportedly was witnessed to be limping and complaining of leg pain and had blood spit on his shirt by a student, police said. Stockton Unified spokeswoman Melinda Meza said Anderson had gone to the hospital for treatment of a leg injury but that the severity of the injury is unknown at this time.
Stockton Unified has previously had issues with discipline policies
Jasmine Dellafosse, community activist and member of the Stockton Equity Education Coalition (SEEC), says the Stockton Unified has found itself in hot water in the past for its discipline policies.
Stockton Unified settled with the California Department of Justice in 2019 to address “system-wide violations of civil and constitutional rights” committed by the district’s Police Department toward minority students and students with disabilities.
In November 2015, the DOJ opened an investigation into whether the district’s police department had complied with state and federal laws in regards to interactions between students and district officers. The DOJ found that certain policies and practices largely discriminated against Black and Latino students and children with disabilities.
“This isn’t the first run around,” Dellafosse said. “There’s other training that needs to happen as well as investment in other positions to create positive outcomes.”
SEEC has argued for the past decade that resources should be reinvested to create a positive climate and have better leadership in Stockton schools, Dellafosse said, such as community violence interrupters.
Dellafosse points to a Stockton Unified officer overheard in the video footage of the altercation this week at Edison telling a student to back off or risk being sprayed. Threatening to pepper spray a student does not de-escalate a situation, she said.
“That should have never been an option,” Dellafosse said. “This is just another reminder of what you need to put in place to not put students and staff in this situation.”
The past year has been hard for students due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when emotions are running high, Dellafosse said, adding that students haven’t been given enough spaces to express, process and handle the emotions involved in scenarios like the one that occurred at Edison this week.
The district needs to “continue to better address scenarios like this in the future,” Dellafosse said.
Barrigan-Padilla called for Stockton Unified Superintendent John Ramirez Jr., the district’s Board of Trustees and Fugazi to be held accountable by SUSD parents.
“They all need to be removed from their positions,” Barrigan-Padilla said Wednesday via text message. “There is no place for racism and violence toward students. That is not how to model respect or discipline for communities that need healing.”
SUSD Public Safety Chief Richard Barries said in a statement from the district Wednesday that his department does everything in its power to keep students safe on campus.
“We try our best to de-escalate any situations that interrupt a safe learning environment. Student safety remains our top priority,” Barries said.
Record reporter Cassie Dickman covers Stockton and San Joaquin County government. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @byCassieDickman. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at recordnet.com/subscribenow.
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