POINT PLEASANT — The teacher accused of felony child abuse and misdemeanor battery on a student is speaking out about the situation — a situation he claims occurred because he was attempting to defend himself.
James E. Jones, II, 52, Point Pleasant, is a mathematics teacher at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School, but has been suspended without pay after an incident that occurred on Feb. 13 during which he is accused of having a physical altercation with a 16-year-old male student.
The criminal complaint filed in Mason County Magistrate Court states Jones was wrestling with a juvenile until they both started choking each other. This occurred in a classroom at PPJ/SHS. According to the complaint, this wrestling/choking got “out of control” and Jones, as the adult, allegedly continued in the activity until the juvenile’s face turned red and his airway was cut off. In addition, students in the classroom are cited as telling Jones to stop, again according to the complaint. The complaint does not state what preceded this “wrestling” or what prompted the situation.
Jones spoke to the Point Pleasant Register on Wednesday about the incident, saying there was no wrestling match. He said the day in question was his first day back at work after being out sick with an upper respiratory infection which affected his breathing and his voice. Jones said it was about a minute before the bell was to ring for dismissal, and the student in question started to leave early. Jones said he asked the student to come back into the classroom until the bell actually rang, and when the student didn’t comply, he pulled on the student’s hoody sweatshirt and caught the string.
Jones said at this point the student grabbed the lower part of Jones’ tie with one hand, pulling in a downward motion, and with the other hand grabbed the tie near the knot and began choking him. Jones said in an effort to defend himself, he grabbed the student’s hoody strings, crossed them and started to choke the student, as well, to get the student to stop. He said he told the student to let go which the student eventually did. Jones said the incident lasted “maybe 20 seconds”, and no one went to the floor in a wrestling match.
Jones is also charged with a misdemeanor battery charge in a separate criminal complaint which alleges while engaged in the “wrestling match” with the juvenile on Feb. 13, Jones struck the student in the nose but denied doing this on purpose. Jones told the Point Pleasant Register he did not hit the student in the nose during the altercation on Feb. 13. He said last spring, this same student jumped him from behind in the hallway between classes, and in an effort to jerk away from the student, Jones said he accidentally hit him in the nose, but the student was not injured. Jones said this incident was reported to PPJ/SHS administration, but no disciplinary action was taken. Jones said he also requested the student be moved from his classroom at the beginning of this school year, but this did not happen either.
Jones said he received a letter from Superintendent Suzanne Dickens about what happened on Feb. 13. In the letter, Dickens speaks about a student, whom Jones said is the student involved in the altercation. Dickens says a student brandished a knife in Jones’ class, also on Feb. 13, threw it into the tiles in the ceiling multiple times and, at one point, the knife fell, nearly striking another student. Dickens states Jones took no action and then engaged in “roughhousing” in the classroom. Jones said he had no idea a knife was in the classroom, saying he was helping a student at the front of the classroom, and this incident with the knife allegedly took place at the back of the classroom. He said he learned of the knife incident later that evening. Jones also said in the letter, Dickens accused him of having a classroom climate where regular instruction was not occurring — an accusation Jones also denied.
The Point Pleasant Register asked Dickens about the knife incident and whether the student was disciplined for it, but she said she could not comment on personnel or student issues.
Jones does not deny an altercation with a student took place on Feb. 13 but maintains he was defending himself. Jones said he will request a hearing with the Mason County Board of Education about retaining his employment at a board meeting set for 6 p.m., March 12 at the Mason County Career Center. He said he hopes parents, students and friends show up to support him and states he holds no ill will towards the student on the other end of the controversy.
Jones said he is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and has been a full-time math teacher at PPJ/SHS since 2002. He remains free on a $32,000 surety bond.