Let me guess, white privilege, right? Whitey need a beatdown once in awhile, right?

Probation for St. Paul Central student who slammed, choked teacher
By Andy Rathbun
arathbun@pioneerpress.com
POSTED: 01/05/2016 12:01:00 AM CST

St. Paul Central High School teacher John Ekblad speaks about his plans to sue the St. Paul Public Schools for failing to maintain a safe work environment in the Bloomington offices of his attorney, Philip G. Villaume, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. Ekblad was hurt while intervening in a Dec. 4 lunchroom melee at St. Paul Central. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

St. Paul Central High School teacher John Ekblad speaks about his plans to sue the St. Paul Public Schools for failing to maintain a safe work environment in the Bloomington offices of his attorney, Philip G. Villaume, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. Ekblad was hurt while intervening in a Dec. 4 lunchroom melee at St. Paul Central. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

It’s probation rather than a residential treatment facility for a 16-year-old who assaulted a Central High teacher last month, leaving the school veteran with a head injury.

Fon’Tae O’Bannon was sentenced Tuesday in Ramsey County Juvenile Court to 90 days of electronic home monitoring, intensive supervised probation and 150 hours of community service.

O’Bannon, who addressed the court and apologized for his actions, also will need to undergo therapy and pay restitution to the victims.

“You’re going to have to go to school, if you can find one that will take you,” Judge James H. Clark Jr. told the teenager.

A school, however, is not where O’Bannon needs to be right now, argued Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Jill Fedje as she gave the state’s recommendation for sentencing.

Fedje — who later said she was disappointed in the sentence — said the state is concerned that O’Bannon’s behavior is escalating. She told the judge that the teenager — an “untreated and violent offender” — needed to be assessed before going back into a school and the community, and she asked the judge to place him outside of his home, which likely would have been a residential treatment facility.

O’Bannon’s actions, she said, showed a complete disregard for teachers, administrators and students at Central High School, and a sentence of probation would send a message that it’s “open season” on teachers and administrators in St. Paul schools.

But Clark said his role is not to send a message, adding that he felt the best thing for O’Bannon was not to place him outside his home.
O’Bannon exercised poor judgment and appears to have issues with impulse control, but that could be attributed to the fact that he is a teenager without a fully developed brain, Clark said.

Defense attorney Diane Dodd agreed with probation as an appropriate sentence for O’Bannon, whom she described as a “great kid” who was in no trouble before the assault. She said O’Bannon has a job, is a committed athlete and attends night school to make up credits.

St. Paul Central High School teacher John Ekblad plans to sue St. Paul Public Schools for failing to maintain a safe work environment. (Pioneer Press:
He also accepts responsibility for his actions, Dodd said, but she described the assault as something other than malicious. O’Bannon also suffered a concussion in the incident, and a video posted on Twitter showed science teacher John Ekblad grab O’Bannon by the head and swing him side to side, she said.

Fedje refuted that claim after the hearing, saying it contradicted several witness accounts and that the short video posted was heavily edited.

During a December hearing in which O’Bannon pleaded guilty to felony third-degree assault causing substantial bodily harm, gross misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and obstructing the legal process, Fedje said five school employees witnessed O’Bannon choke Ekblad and throw him on a table — something the teenager said he didn’t recall.

The 16-year-old also denied giving his brother a high five afterward in the attendance office. When asked by Fedje during that hearing if O’Bannon told his brother that he “slammed that white-ass teacher on the table,” Dodd objected and the judge stopped the interrogation.

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Dodd asked the judge not to consider any of the alleged statements in the attendance office, as they had not been proven in court.

Judge Clark also heard Fedje read victim impact statements from Ekblad; St. Paul Central Assistant Principal Mark Krois, whom O’Bannon admitted pushing during the incident; and St. Paul Central Principal Mary Mackbee.

Ekblad’s statement said he has had severe headaches, memory loss, blurred vision and uncontrollable shaking of the hand. He asked the judge to prosecute O’Bannon to the fullest extent of the law.

Mackbee said in her impact statement the incident gives the impression that “public schools are not safe and fuels the notion that teenagers are out of control.”

Ekblad’s absence since the assault has left a hole that other teachers are struggling to fill, Mackbee said, and has affected students.

O’Bannon’s parents told the judge that their son was a good person.

When it was his turn to speak, O’Bannon said he knew what he did was wrong.

“I’m sorry for what happened to him,” he said of Ekblad. “This (was) definitely not intentional.”

Andy Rathbun can be reached at 651-228-2121. Follow him at twitter.com/andyrathbun.

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