Verona Area School District security chief on leave, charged with child abuse after altercation with student | #schoolsaftey

The head of security for the Verona Area School District is on unpaid leave and charged with felony child abuse following a May 18 altercation with a 17-year-old student.

Corey Saffold, a former Madison Police Department school resource officer, told Madison365 in an email Friday that the school board will decide whether to terminate his employment at a June 21 hearing.

In a press release, attorney Robert Kasieta, who is representing Saffold in his employment proceedings, wrote that Saffold was “obligated to interact with a disruptive student… an individual known to district staff to be disruptive, threatened to assault several school staff members and was disrupting the learning environment for an extended time. The school security team requested Mr. Saffold’s assistance. After the young man threatened Mr. Saffold with physical violence, Saffold was compelled to act. Saffold was faced with an aggressive, abusive, and larger young man who repeatedly disregarded verbal instructions. Corey responded reasonably and in the best interest of all students and staff, given the circumstances. Because of Mr. Saffold’s involvement, the matter was resolved without anyone other than Mr. Saffold being injured.”

The student was also injured, according to a criminal complaint.

According to a criminal complaint, the student was wandering the halls and “school staff members had been attempting to locate and corral (the student) for several hours” by 11 am on May 18. Witnesses said Saffold located the student and attempted to escort him to the office. The student confronted Saffold, coming face-to-face and threatening to “beat your (expletive) ass.” 

In statements to police, Saffold and at least two witnesses said the student made a motion as if he was about to strike Saffold. A police account of surveillance video said the student had his hands down at his sides and “suddenly moved his face closer to Saffold’s face, as he also steps back with his right foot.” Saffold reacted to that motion with what his criminal defense attorney Jonas Bednarek called a “distancing technique” learned in his police training — extending an elbow to create distance between himself and the student. The elbow struck the student’s face as he lunged forward.

A physical altercation ensued in which the student punched at Saffold several times and Saffold wrestled the student to the ground. The student struck Saffold in the face at least once, causing swelling and bruising that was visible to police, and bit Saffold’s thumb hard enough to draw blood.

School staff were able to subdue the student and he was arrested by Verona Police. Police said the student kept kicking the inside of the police car’s door, “made statements about returning to fight Saffold and wishing he had bitten off Saffold’s finger,” and threatened to beat up one of the police officers.

The student has not been identified publicly, nor have the witnesses who spoke with police. Saffold said the student was also charged. Madison365 has not seen the surveillance video but has submitted an open records request with the school district.

A press release issued Wednesday, by the Verona Area School District reads in part, “VASD does not condone initiating physical force between staff and students. Use of physical force should be a last resort, and only used to protect or prevent injury or harm to others or self. Since the incident occurred, VASD has been working with all of those who were involved to move forward in a productive manner.”

If convicted, Saffold could face up to $10,000 in fines and six years in prison. Court records indicate this is his first criminal charge.

Bednarek told Madison365 that Saffold would speak publicly at the school board hearing on Wednesday and not before. He added that such personnel hearings are usually done in closed session but Saffold has requested his be conducted in the open.

This story was updated at 4:50 pm on Friday to include Bednarek’s statements.

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