Teen suspended after incident

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By Damon Lawrence

A Harriman High School student was accused of assaulting Principal Scott Calahan on Oct. 27.

However, the student and her father contend it was the other way around.

The incident happened in the school gym. The student, Courtney Thomas, said Calahan had her cellphone, and she wanted it back.

“He was looking through my pictures, my personal stuff,” she said. “I kept saying give me my phone, give me my phone and then the next thing I know, he grabbed me by my neck and put one of his feet behind one my feet and slammed me onto the ground.”

According to an E-911 report, at 3:52 p.m. Harriman Assistant Principal Bobby Clark asked that police respond to school as soon as possible because Thomas, 17, had shoved a teacher.

She was arrested and charged with assault.

The juvenile report that was filed on the incident said Thomas became combative when Calahan approached her about a disciplinary action that was taking place.

“Thomas assaulted Calahan by scratching him with her hand on the right side of his neck,” the report said.

“Principal Calahan in his defense, placed his hands on Thomas to restrain her until police officers arrived.”

A woman who answered the phone at the school on Thursday said any comments about the incident would have to come from the central office.

A phone message left for Roane County Director of Schools Toni McGriff was not returned by presstime.

Thomas and her father, Garland Upton, denied that she assaulted Calahan.   

“They charged her with assault, which seems ridiculous to me,” Upton said. “He slammed her on that hardwood gym floor.”

Upton said he spoke with Calahan, but couldn’t get an explanation on why he was going through his daughter’s cell phone.

“He said he didn’t have to discuss that with me, but at one point she tried to get her cell phone back and he says that she approached him in a threatening manner,” Upton said, “so he felt that he needed to restrain her, so he grabs her and flips her down onto the gym floor.”

Upton said he took his daughter to the hospital because she was injured in the incident.

“She has a bruised septum in her nose,” he said. “The emergency room told her to keep an ice pack on her head for 24 to 48 hours because there’s a possibility of a slight concussion where he threw her down.”

Thomas said the scratch happened after the principal grabbed a hold of her.

“I guess where he had slammed me to the ground I might have scratched him,” she said.

Thomas said she’s now suspended and has no idea when or if she’ll be allowed to return to school.

Her father said that’s been tough on the family because Thomas, who played on the basketball team, was hoping to get a college scholarship.

“My daughter needs to be in school getting her education,” Upton said.

Thomas has a juvenile court date scheduled for next month.