The attorney representing a Bullard High School freshman involved in a physical altercation with a Fresno Unified school board member says his client didn’t trigger the incident.
Video of the Jan. 11 incident released by the school district shows Fresno Unified School District trustee Terry Slatic in a physical tussle with the student.
Slatic, speaking about the incident to GV Wire last week, said the student threatened to shoot and kill Slatic and his assistant, Michelle Asadoorian.
“The video does not support such an account. My understanding is that Mr. Slatic contends that the threat was why he turned around and approached my client, which is just completely illogical and unsupported by what is depicted in the video,” said the student’s attorney, Roger Bonakdar of Fresno.
Bonakdar would not confirm the identity of the student, other than he is a freshman at Bullard.
The video — which can be seen at the top of this page — shows Slatic and Asadoorian walking by the student, then Slatic turning around and engaging in a physical confrontation. Slatic forcibly grabbed the student’s backpack and placed it on the ground. The student then took the bag and ran off.
Attorney Says Slatic Should Have Diffused Situation
“The video does not support such an account. My understanding is that Mr. Slatic contends that the threat was why he turned around and approached my client, which is just completely illogical and unsupported by what is depicted in the video.”—Attorney Roger Bonakdar
Bonakdar said Slatic’s actions were inappropriate.
“The situation at hand is one that everyone should be troubled by. These are children. … Adults, and specifically people that are acting on behalf of the school district, should be held to at a minimum the same standard children are. And that is that you don’t resort to physical violence — use your words and you diffuse a situation.
“That is not what happened here. Instead, Mr. Slatic decided to take matters into his own hands, which is completely irreconcilable with the notion that my client threatened him in any way. Because if he was in fact threatened, then these statements about him being concerned about his safety were true, you wouldn’t see Mr. Slatic going 25 feet physically towards my client while my client is trying to go away and get away and is making no menacing or physical movements that would suggest a threat.
“So, it’s really an interesting circumstance and I’m looking forward to getting to the bottom of it,” Bonakdar said.
Responding to GV Wire’s questions about Slatic’s account of events, Bonakdar doubts his client said anything to the trustee or his assistant in the first place.
“That makes no sense because you don’t have any interaction between Mr. Slatic, his assistant and my client, until Mr. Slatic has already passed him and walked more than 20 feet away from him. And even if there was a verbal exchange — which again it doesn’t even make sense that there would be at that juncture — the child has the good sense to remove himself from the interaction whereas Mr. Slatic continues to pursue the child,” Bonakdar said.
Slatic says the student used foul language, which got his attention.
Bonakdar noted that Slatic is not an administrator or teacher. The student did not know Slatic before the confrontation and considered him a stranger, the attorney said.
“He tried to walk away. I don’t think that there’s any dispute about that.”
Student Back on Campus
Though the student did not miss any class time because of the confrontation, Bonakdar said the incident has affected his client.
“The situation rattled him because he wouldn’t expect to have a physical altercation with an adult on campus. But, it actually was made much worse when we learned that this was someone that had a role with the school district,” Bonakdar said.
“His trust in the system, and the notion that teachers will follow the rules that they instruct students to follow, to use your words to diffuse situations and to seek the help of authorities or a police officer when needed, was not heeded here. So he has some anxiety. He’s definitely nervous around administrators now. And it’s not affected him for the better that’s for certain.”
Fresno police conducted an investigation. The report is headed to the Fresno County District Attorney’s office, if it is not there already.
Police say they wrote a general incident report, without making specific recommendations because of the conflicting nature of the confrontation. Battery is being looked at on both sides.
Battery is considered willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon another.
Bonakdar said he is still gathering information before deciding on the next steps, including filing a lawsuit against the district.
“I want to get a full picture of things before we make any affirmative steps one way or the other. For now, the family’s primary concern is making sure that the child doesn’t have any reprisals for this and for telling the truth about how he was accosted,” Bonakdar said.