Parent pleads not guilty to assault on three students at local school

Jefferson Twp. Junior/Senior High, on Union Road, housed 145 students in grades 7-12 last year, according to the Ohio Department of Education. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
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Jefferson Twp. Junior/Senior High, on Union Road, housed 145 students in grades 7-12 last year, according to the Ohio Department of Education. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

A parent was arrested for three counts of misdemeanor assault against students last week at Jefferson Twp. Junior/Senior High School after she got involved with a fight among students, including her daughter.

VanDramada Nalls, 34, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Montgomery County Municipal Court, and a pretrial hearing is scheduled for Oct. 16, according to court records.

Deputies were dispatched to the school at 8:25 a.m. on Sept. 26, according to an incident report from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Principal Thomas Jennings told them a large fight had occurred in the school gym.

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According to the sheriff’s report, trouble had been brewing among two girls for a few days over comments one of them made about some male students. Each girl said the other was the one who wanted to fight, according to the report.

Nalls’ daughter told deputies that while she and her mother were in the school office that morning, the other girls yelled at her and she angrily ran after them into the gym, where all parties said a fight began. Jennings confirmed the girl ran out of the office while he was talking to VanDramada Nalls, then he and Nalls followed, with Jennings pausing to tell someone to call police.

Three 14-year-old female students told deputies that VanDramada Nalls ran into the gym after her daughter and punched the three girls in the head with a closed fist during the fight. Nalls told deputies she never hit anyone, and only broke up the fight, according to the police report.

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The sheriff’s report only mentions an interview with one school employee, a counselor, who said she did not witness the fight and arrived as the parties were being separated. The security camera in the gym did not capture the fight, which was out of the camera’s range of vision, according to the report.

Jennings said the school’s athletic director was in the gym at the time, but he was not mentioned in the report.

Last week, multiple parents and school staff complained to this newspaper that Jefferson High School has been disorganized and understaffed this year, with students frequently hanging out in the gym with minimal supervision.

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Jefferson parents Tennille Keeton and Latonya Benson, along with Jefferson teachers union President Brittney Fries, said students have sometimes been in the gym for as much as half of the school day because of teacher shortages. Fries said the disorganization has led to discipline and safety issues like this fight.

Jennings acknowledged that the school is understaffed, with multiple courses overseen by teachers not certified in those academic areas. But he said the claim that students spent “half the school day” in the gym overseen by only the athletic director was an exaggeration.