District responds to incident at Newport News middle school involving student altercation, assistant principal injury

Gildersleeve Middle School.PNG
Posted at 10:10 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 22:14:13-05

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Administrators with Newport News Public Schools have responded after an incident involving an altercation between two students and an injury to the assistant principal of Gildersleeve Middle School earlier this month.

NNPS officials say on November 1, there was an altercation between two students in the hallway at Gildersleeve. They say one of the students removed a fire extinguisher from the wall, but it was not used during the altercation.

No injuries were reported.

After the incident, an assistant principal was hurt when he slipped and fell. School administrators say his injury was not related to the altercation between the students.

Gildersleeve was then placed in a modified lockdown for a few minutes to clear the hallways and allow medical professionals to enter the building to help the assistant principal.

The students who were involved in the altercation were sanctioned for their behavior, the school district says.

Later that evening, Janelle Spitz, the principal of Gildersleeve, sent the following message via email and phone call to all parents and families:

Good afternoon families. This is Janelle Spitz, principal of Gildersleeve Middle School, calling to inform you about a safety measure that took place today.

This afternoon, following a student altercation, a staff member was injured. Our school went into a modified lockdown for about 25 minutes to clear the hallways and allow medical professionals to enter the building. While no students were injured, our leadership team is thoroughly investigating this incident. The students involved will be sanctioned in accordance with the Code of Conduct in the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook. The students involved are facing serious consequences.

The safety and security of our students and staff will continue to be our top priority. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact us. We value your support and partnership.
Janelle Spitz, principal of Gildersleeve Middle School

News 3 also received a copy of an email a 30-year Newport News Public Schools security guard sent to NNPS Superintendent Dr. George Parker, Principal Spitz and other school administrators concerning the incident. In the email, Robbin Padgett says she has been demoted from lead security guard, seemingly because of using handcuffs on a student.

Padgett also says she saw "a principal on the floor unconscious with a fire extinguisher next to him, teachers and students screaming for help, another principal in a state of panic, hearing calls on the radios to call the police and for an ambulance, and then my officer on the floor [at this point for quite some time] struggling and afraid to give up control... because the situation was so volatile."

Padgett and multiple teachers attended Tuesday night's school board meeting to address the situation.

The full email from Padgett to NNPS administrators can be read in full below:

I feel the personal need to compose this email, as it does not seem that anyone has the interest in communicating with me directly.

Firstly yes, I own my truth as to having handcuffs on my belt the day of November 1, 2021.  This was a decision I regret.  However, one still questions what could have been done differently to truly ensure the continued safety of the student/students and staff involved.

Secondly, having said that, making mistakes and having regrets make us human.  After all, isn't our business about human beings....?  Aren't we expected to teach these human beings compassion, communication, understanding, and forgiveness....?  And most certainly, to lead by example....  In the past couple of years, I have had many of my work colleagues tell me that we are all disposable, that we are all just a number and not a name, that as soon as we are gone we're forgotten and replaced.  I have argued those statements with many -- sharing with them that that is an untruth.  Sadly, I feel I can no longer argue this with them.  I feel disposable, and disposed of.  When I think back on the past nearly 31 years, I have so many fond memories with Newport News Public Schools.  My memories range from both of my children (who are 36 and 41 years old now) having excellent experiences at Gildersleeve Middle School, to lifelong co-worker friends, as well as cherished life lessons I've gained through the kindness, patience, understanding, and forgiveness from others.  I was fortunate enough to transfer to GMS about 26 years ago.  I have gained the status of a staple here.  I know every inch of my building, I know generations of families that continue to be educated here, I know the basic needs, and often more, as to what our staff, faculty, and students need on a daily basis.  I've worked on the year book staff, been a part of the school improvement team, after school activities, taken charter bus trips out of town with our students and staff, worked with our We Leap Program, as well as hundreds of sporting events.  Yes, Gildersleeve Middle School IS and HAS BEEN my happy home away from home for nearly 26 years!  The thought of pulling me away from here and the students I know so well, to send me to an "unknown" -- especially during these extremely difficult times we are all going through -- just doesn't make any sense to me and will make an already chaotic situation worse.  

Thirdly, just to be clear, I accept my demotion.  This I understand for my actions.  Bring in another Lead Security Officer -- I can respect that decision.  My plea is to keep me at GMS, where I know without a shadow of a doubt, I am most beneficial to NNPS.  I am probably 5 years away from retirement.  Please don't take me away from my home.

And lastly, it was very difficult to round the corner of "my hall" to see a principal on the floor unconscious with a fire extinguisher next to him, teachers and students screaming for help, another principal in a state of panic, hearing calls on the radios to call the police and for an ambulance, and then my officer on the floor (at this point for quite some time) struggling and afraid to give up control (even when Officer Saddler and I offered) because the situation was so volatile.  The student's voice was echoing all throughout the halls, which prompted us to go into a lockdown.  The student's exclamations were such as, "As soon as I'm free I'm going to kill all of you", "I'm going to shoot you in face when you let me go", and much more of the same.  How were we to REALLY KNOW that he wasn't armed?  Officer Dedmon was tiring quickly by this time.  He screamed to me, "I need handcuffs now!".... I ask you, just take a moment to think, what would you have done?  I will rest with this statement: In nearly 31 years of service to NNPS as a Security Officer, I have NEVER used my handcuffs, I have NEVER pulled them out to use them, I have NEVER done an assisted escort report.  I have ALWAYS been able to use my verbal de-escalation skills or call for back up when I was no longer making positive progress in a situation.  Obviously, relationship building, comunicatin, and trust ARE KEY!

Sincerely and thank you,

Officer Robbin Padgett
Robbin Padgett

News 3 reached out to Padgett, and she told us she received an email Wednesday saying her pay has now been decreased by $2. She did not want to go on camera due to this situation still being under investigation.

Stay with News 3 for updates.