Teacher's lawsuit against St. Paul Schools says colleagues fear more abuse

At a news conference on Tuesday, a St. Paul teacher who was assaulted by a student while trying to break up a fight said he was "broken," and doesn't remember the attack.

John Ekblad is a teacher at Central High School in St. Paul and is filing a civil lawsuit against the school district, and said his colleagues also fear something similar could happen to them.

"I’m kind of broken right now, I’d like to get healed, and I would like to return to my job," he said at the news conference at the law office of Villaume & Schiek, P.A.

Ekblad suffered traumatic brain injury while trying to break up a fight involving 16-year-old Fon’Tae O’Bannon, who pleaded guilty to felony assault charges.

In a release the law firm said the school has failed to keep its teachers safe from violence despite the district having been notified of problems in the past. Attorney Phillip Villaume said a pattern of teacher abuse appeared to have started in during the 2014-2015 school year. In a notice to the school, firm said during this school year alone, 20 teachers have been assaulted by students in Ramsey County.

“The school has failed to properly safeguard its teachers, professional staff, administrators, and students from this assaultive behavior,” he said. “The bottom line is, we must protect teachers, administrators and professional staff from the risk of violent assault within the school district.”

A goal of the lawsuit, Villaume said, is to put a stop to the abuse and to push the district to take “affirmative steps” to ensure that goal comes to fruition.

“I know from my colleagues, teachers and administrators, professional staff, and students that they are afraid that what happened to me could happen to them as well,” Ekblad said. “I’ve decided to stand up for my rights as a public employee to work in a school where violence should not be tolerated.”

SPPS statement

Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) is extremely saddened by this situation.

While SPPS cannot comment about ongoing or potential lawsuits, Saint Paul Public Schools does not and will not tolerate violence against anyone in the district.

Our discipline policies have always specified severe consequences for students who jeopardize the safety of others and we do not shy away from enforcing these policies.

In addition, information about school climate is available here: http://bit.ly/1NyL7NJ

Jerry Skelly
Communications, Marketing & Development