Is Using The Restroom A Crime At Paris High School?
(Paris High School Principal Gary Preston and PISD Police Officer Joey McCarthy)
Paris Independent School District followed a new public school trend by hiring its own police force in October of 2013. The District insisted that this move was about safety and would have nothing to do with discipline.
On February 24, 2014 Paris High School senior Joquan Wallace asked his last period teacher if he could use the restroom. He was given permission. What happened next borders on bizarre.
According to Joquan, he used the restroom farthest away from his classroom. He said the restroom he used was the least used. Joquan stated that he heard someone come into the restroom and leave out. He said that when he left the restroom, PISD Police Officer Joey McCarthy was standing outside the door waiting on him.
(Paris High Student Joquan Wallace)
Joquan gave The Paris Texas Chronicle the following statement:
“When I left the restroom, Officer McCarthy asked me where I was supposed to be. I told him I was on my way back to class. He asked me who my teacher was. I told him Mr. Bowlings. He asked me why I was using this restroom instead of the one closer. I told him because I had to do number two. He told me that he had came in and looked at me under the stall and that my feet were not turned in the direction of doing number two. I just walked back to the classroom. When I tried to go in, Officer McCarthy started grabbing me. I told him don’t touch me. He left and I went into the classroom. He came back with the principal, Gary Preston. Mr. Preston asked me to step out of the room. I did. Mr. Preston asked me what was going on. I told him that the police officer was messing with me about using the restroom, which I had permission to do. Mr. Preston told me to go to the office. I said let me get my stuff. School was about to be let out and I didn’t want to leave my phone and stuff at school."
Joquan also stated: "I was going in to get my stuff and suddenly Mr. Preston and Officer McCarthy grabbed me and I was put in a headlock and they started slamming me against the wall and they slammed me on the table and hit my head and it started pounding. They threw me against other things in the room. I didn’t understand what was going on. At some point they had me hanging over the stair rails in the hall. Somebody put handcuffs on me and they took me to a police car. I asked could I call my dad but they wouldn’t let me. I told Officer McCarthy that the handcuffs were hurting. He grabbed at them and made them tighter. He took me to the police station and started writing stuff. He said Oh you hit me. I said “Huh, when did I hit you?” He told me it didn’t matter. He kept picking at me and telling me he got me now and asked why did I want to call my daddy earlier and did I think my daddy was going to come and beat him up or something. Then he locked me up.” A few hours later my mom and dad came and got me out of jail and took me to the hospital because my head, back, and hand was still hurting.”
Written statements from Officer Joey McCarthy and Principal Gary Preston give no indication that the arrest stems from the act of going to the restroom after being given permission. In fact the statements are rather vague and make it appear as if the incident started at the classroom door. They also fail to mention any of their own behavior. There’s a difference in restraining someone and slamming them into walls and tables which is what was described by numerous witnesses. The teen is rather small. McCarthy is large and stocky. Preston is a large man as well.
According to one witness, the two school officials came up behind Joquan and, “Forcefully grabbed Joe and slammed him against the corner of the wall, then he grabbed Joes head and put him in a headlock and Joe slipped out of it. Then Officer McCarthy had pushed him into the cabinet making Joe hit his head.”
Another witness stated, “ Officer McCarthy entered the room angrily and started trying to manhandle Joe throwing him in the corner, on the table by the door and everything and had his arm in a lock where he could not move”
Another witness had this to say about Officer McCarthy and Principal Preston, “They had Joe in a choke hold and then slammed Joes head into the cabinets and then they made him run into the eyewash thing. Then the woman police put one cuff on Joe. Preston was ruffing him up and Preston made Joe come out of his sweat top because he was ruffing him up so bad.”
Yet another witness said, “They go to manhandling him like he’s a dog or something. As they do this he hits all kinds of objects very hard from the aggressiveness from McCarthy. It looked to me like they were fighting him or something.
There is nothing in Preston’s or McCarthy’s statements that give any reason for the police officer to approach and question Joquan Wallace to begin with. He wasn’t committing any crime. There’s no indication that he was breaking any school rule. Joquans mother, Dion Wallace stated, “Why was the officer following my son and peeping at him under the bathroom stall? That’s kind of creepy.”
What is not in dispute is that Joquan had permission to go to the restroom. The statements from PISD and Officer McCarthy have some contradictions. While Preston claims that Joquan cursed at McCarthy telling him, “Get your fu*king hands off me” McCarthy never makes that claim. According to McCarthys statement, Joquan said, “Don’t touch me” which is exactly what Joquan said he told the officer. None of the initial discipline reports mention any profanity and neither do any of the witnesses. Joquan was not written up for profanity. The first mention of it was three days later at an expulsion hearing. Prestons statement claims that Joquan was swinging his arms at McCarthy and himself in the hallway. McCarthy claims Joquan got physical once inside the classroom.
Paris High School has cameras on all halls. The segments of the incident which occurred in the halls were recorded. Dion Wallace stated she emailed and sent a certified letter to Preston and PISD Superintendent Paul Jones requesting they pull the videotapes of Joquan going to the restroom and the one returning to the classroom and secure them for any court proceeding that Joquan might have. She said she also requested of Preston to be allowed to view the video. Wallace stated that Preston refused to allow her to see it citing privacy laws. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows schools to refuse to allow parents to view videos if the video has images of other students unless the students parents give permission. However the school could easily cover the faces of other students with paper or tape if they wanted to show the video to a parent. Or they could simply get permission. Wallace says she thinks Preston might destroy the video or claim it was erased or that the equipment malfunctioned. She stated, “I’ve heard they’ve done that in the past.”
Joquan now faces two felony counts of Assault of a Public Servant. He will not be allowed to walk the stage to graduate with his classmates. He has a sister who is also a senior. The family stated that they had been excited that Joquan and his sister would be graduating together. Several colleges expressed interest in Joquan and he was expecting to receive an athletic scholarship. Dion Wallace said she is not sure if he will be prevented from doing so due to this incident. Joquan can no longer attend Paris High School. He was expelled for the remainer of the year and placed in Alternative school, which is considered by some, a halfway house to dropouts and/or prison. One question that might be asked is would McCarthy and Preston give their own son a felony record under the same circumstances? Would they body slam and injure their own son under the same circumstances? Another question is if Preston and McCarthy were assaulted, why is Joquan the one with injuries? Joquans parents said there were no red marks or bruises on Prestons face where he claimed to be hit with a fist. Dion Wallace also alleges that Preston threatened to have her arrested if she came to the school to see about her son and hung up on her when she was trying to get information.
(Injury To The Back Of Joquan Wallace)
By all indications, Joquan Wallace has been a well-behaved student. He has done well by PISD. He has managed to get to the end of 12th grade with no school write-ups with the exception of being tardy twice. He has no history of violence, profanity, talking back, or bad behavior. He has no prior arrest record. He’s known as a quiet friendly student who never makes any trouble for anyone. He has been a good athlete excelling in track and football. But now Joquan Wallace is officially part of the School to Prison Pipeline.