The Tuolumne County District Attorney will not pursue charges against Sonora High School Principal Todd Dearden for an incident involving an alleged scuffle with a student, a deputy prosecutor said Thursday.
The parents of Sonora High School student Oscar Batt say Dearden hit their son and injured his face. After reviewing a police report, however, the D.A.’s Office said there was “insufficient evidence,” said Deputy District Attorney Dee Shepherd.
Jamestown resident Russel Batt alleged another student was starting a fight with his son on Sept. 18 when Dearden intervened and, at some point, hit Oscar Batt in the face. Russel Batt claims the blow caused his mouth to bleed.
The alleged incident happened near the school cafeteria, according to police.
From there, Oscar Batt was taken to the school’s office, where he texted his father about the incident. Russel Batt said he spoke with Dearden, was dissatisfied with the conversation and went to the Sonora Police Department.
The police spoke with Batt and his son and took a report. A several-day investigation followed during which officers interviewed 14 Sonora High faculty members and students, according to Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson.
“We did a thorough intensive investigation,” Stinson said, adding that Oscar Batt’s injuries “appeared to be accidental.”
Dearden said he intervened to break up a fight but declined to comment on whether he used physical force. The allegation that he hit a student in the face was simply not true, he said.
The District Attorney’s Office reviewed the police report Thursday and decided there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute Dearden, according to Shepherd. She said she couldn’t comment on the evidence or the decision not to file charges.
Sonora Union High School District Superintendent Mike McCoy, who was traveling Thursday, said he met with Batt but hadn’t yet received a formal, written complaint at the district office. Written complaints are the first step in the district’s standardized process for investigating claims against school employees, he explained.
McCoy also said that, since he hadn’t read a complaint, he didn’t know exactly what the Batts’ allegations were.
Faculty members determine how to deal with a fight between students on school property.
“We don’t encourage physical intervention in the fight unless we think there’s a danger to the student,” McCoy said. “Then it’s up to each individual to determine. … Our protocol is that you call for help and get as many adults there as possible and make sure children don’t get hurt.”
“Our adults are trained to intervene properly,” he said. “This is fairly common, for the parents to feel that the adults should not have physically touched their children.”
Batt’s wife, Andrea Batt, said she did drop off a formal complaint at the Sonora High district office Thursday. McCoy was out of the office at the time.
Oscar is now attending Summerville High School because Batt didn’t feel he was safe at Sonora High.