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Students call for reinstatement of high school principal charged with assault

By Web staff

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    MAPLEWOOD, New Jersey (WABC) — A high school principal is off the job and facing felony charges, including assault, all due to a fight last year among students.

Students at Columbia High School say Principal Frank Sanchez was trying to break up a fight between two students before he was placed on leave on Jan. 2 by the district as investigation expanded into his involvement.

“These girls were wailing on each other,” said Ethan Borteck, who is a student at the school. “He could have done something different, but he had to do something.”

Sanchez was arraigned Tuesday on second degree child endangerment and simple assault charges.

“The child endangerment charges are not fair,” said Keira Sims, a senior at the school. “If anything, he was trying to help.”

Though that version of what took place is earning Sanchez sympathy, the attorney representing the student in question says the allegations have nothing to do with a fight.

“On March. 9, 2023, there was a physical interaction between a student and Principal Sanchez,” said James Davis. “This interaction was, in our view, caused by Principal Sanchez. There was no fight.”

That student and her family is also supported by the group Black Parents Workshop, which is led by founder Frank Fields.

Fields says the organization was started 10 years ago as a way to support Black students in the district.

“Obviously, this prosecutor is reviewing something that makes him believe that this young woman was assaulted,” said Fields.

Both Davis and Fields would not go into specifics about what the student is alleging, but said the investigation began months ago.

Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert, Acting Superintendent of the South Orange & Maplewood School District, issued the following statement in response to the charges, stating: “I am deeply saddened by the news of charges against the Columbia High School principal, the latest in a series of unexpected events that have happened in our District during this school year. No matter what our feelings may be at this time, our focus must be on meeting the needs of Columbia High School students, their families, and staff. I am working with my administration colleagues to make sure we continue to fulfill our obligations to the people we serve.”

Sanchez, however, is getting support outside the school.

“I was very upset to hear that someone’s career is going to be destroyed because they were trying to stop a fight,” said Terrie Johnson, a concerned grandparent. “I don’t know how the person was touched or anything, but as a former educator, when you try to stop a fight, you just grab the person.”

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