published Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Student fight broken up with Taser

by Kelli Gauthier

by Jacqueline Koch


Tasers have made local news headlines during the last week. On Friday, a 54-year-old man died a short time after being shocked with a Taser by Erlanger hospital police. Edward Buckner was being treated for dehydration but became combative while being released, Chattanooga police said.

Two Brainerd High School students each face a charge of disorderly conduct after a Monday hallway fight led to one being shocked with a Taser by a school resource officer.

The students -- Monterell Neal, 18, and an unidentified juvenile -- began fighting between classes, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Janice Atkinson said.

Teachers and the resource officer tried to break up the fight but were unsuccessful, Ms. Atkinson said. The officer then used a Taser on Mr. Neal, and the fight stopped, she said.

"They only do it when everything else fails," she said of using the stun gun.

Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services personnel were called to check on Mr. Neal according to sheriff's department policy, but the student refused medical attention, Ms. Atkinson said.

Mr. Neal was taken to the Hamilton County Jail and booked on a charge of disorderly conduct. The second student, who is not being identified because he is a juvenile, also was charged with disorderly conduct and was taken to the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center, Ms. Atkinson said.

Mr. Neal is scheduled to appear Dec. 17 in Hamilton County General Sessions Court in Judge David Bales' courtroom.

The student is one of only "a handful" who have been stunned with a Taser since school resource officers from the sheriff's department began carrying the stun guns last year, said Danielle Clark, spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Department of Education.

Since May 2008, officers have used Tasers on students at Red Bank, Ooltewah, Howard, Brainerd and Hixson high schools, according to newspaper archives.

The juvenile student in this most recent fight at Brainerd has been suspended, Ms. Clark said. But disciplinary records are confidential, so because Mr. Neal has been identified she could not disclose what would happen to him, Ms. Clark said.

"Appropriate disciplinary action has been taken, in accordance with district policy," she said.

Ms. Clark said it is up to the officer on duty whether or not to shock a student with a Taser.

"The decision lies solely with the officer," she said. "It's not a school administration decision at all."

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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