No school policy on restraining students

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By Damon Lawrence

Roane County Director of Schools Toni McGriff said the incident involving Harriman High School Principal Scott Calahan and a student was investigated, but she could not comment further for legal reasons.  

“I can’t talk to you about any kind of student discipline issue,” McGriff said.

She also said she wasn’t aware of an official school policy on use of force or restraining students.

“School officials are fully within their legal rights to use appropriate restraints when a student might be a danger to themselves or others,” she added.

The incident between Calahan and senior Courtney Thomas occurred on Oct. 27.

Harriman police responded to the school after Assistant Principal Bobby Clark called 911 shortly before 4 p.m.

Thomas was charged with assaulting Calahan in the incident, but she said it was the other way around.

“I walk up to him, and I’m like, ‘give me my phone,’ and he just like gritted his teeth at me,” she said, “and the next thing I know. I was slammed onto the ground and my nose was busted.”

“I don’t think it was right that he did me like that being a girl,” she added.

Calahan’s version of events are detailed in the police report about the incident.

Calahan, of 1377 Sunset Ridge Drive, Crossville, told police that Thomas was a suspect in a theft that occurred at the school. He checked her cellphone in an attempt to find evidence that might link her to the theft.

He told police Thomas became agitated while he was checking the phone, demanded it back, bumped him with her chest and pushed him.  

“Calahan stepped back after being pushed by (Thomas), and seen that (Thomas) was balling her fist up as she was possibly going to punch or swing at him,” the police report said.

“Calahan then put (Thomas) in a ‘bear hug,’ trapping her arms to her side to prevent (Thomas) from assaulting him,” the report continued. “Calahan then rolled to his side, which caused her to come off her feet and lay on the ground. Calahan laid on (Thomas) to keep her from causing further injuries.”

Clark was also interviewed, and his version of what happened was similar to Calahan’s.

“After being pushed, Clark stated that Calahan restrained (Thomas) as she was swinging and cursing at him,” the report said.

Thomas, according to the report, told police that “Calahan, with no reason, grabbed her and slammed her on the ground and stuck his knee in her back to hold her down.”

The report said that when police arrived Thomas was enraged in anger, kicking over chairs, punching vending machines
and cursing at officers and the school administra-tion.

Thomas was arrested and taken to the juvenile center.

Her father, Garland Upton, said she suffered multiple injuries in the incident, including a busted nose and a bruised septem.  

“I don’t think he should be able to get away with that,” he said. “I don’t care what the circumstances are.”