STOCKTON CA Aug 31 2011 – The 29-year-old mother of a Fillmore Elementary student was arrested by Stockton Unified police after allegedly assaulting the school’s principal Monday morning, the latest in a series of incidents that have raised security concerns across the district.
Stockton Unified Assistant Superintendent Dan Wright said the dispute that led to the assault centered around Fillmore’s new uniform code, which took effect when the school year began July 26.
The assault occurred as classes began at about 9 a.m. Within 90 minutes, Stockton Unified police arrested Pami Gibbs.
Fillmore Principal Evangelina Ramos, 42, was taken by ambulance to Dameron Hospital, where she was treated for a broken nose and other facial injuries. Wright said it is uncertain when Ramos will return to work.
School security continues to be a major concern for Stockton Unified campuses.
Stockton Unified Police Chief Jim West confirmed that a Taylor Elementary parent was subdued by one of his officers with pepper spray last week when she came to be viewed as a threat during a visit to the school office. Also last week, two teenagers were shot within a block of Edison High during a fight that included at least some students.
Earlier this month, two teachers at Stockton Intermediate Alternative were injured when they attempted to break up a fight between two students.
“There are so many different (safety) issues right now in this district,” said Gina Hall, president of the principals union. “The police are stretched to the limit. I realize the budget issues are big, but there’s got to be something we can do. … We definitely need to find a way to make our schools safe and secure.”
Security staffing was a major casualty of June budget cuts. Last year, Stockton Unified reduced its staff of campus security assistants, who work at the elementary schools, from 46 to three. Fillmore does not have one this year. Each of the four comprehensive high schools had eight campus security monitors last year; this year, each has four.
Still, at a meeting of the district’s safety committee on Aug. 17, Superintendent Carl Toliver said he was “pleased” by a “very quiet opening” to the school year. He also said cash-strapped Stockton Unified was hoping to increase security staffing but not until sometime in September, after the district gains greater clarity on the state of its finances.
“We would love to have more security on our campuses, obviously,” Wright said Monday morning as he stood outside Fillmore, in southeast Stockton. “I don’t think this is a circumstance that would have been prevented by that. This is someone who, in an instant, just turned around and attacked this principal, seemingly without provocation.”
According to West, when Gibbs dropped off her third- and fourth-graders at Fillmore on Monday morning, Ramos objected to the depiction of skulls on the third-grader’s T-shirt.
West said Gibbs was upset that her son had been told to turn his shirt inside out and was discussing the matter outside the school office with Ramos, Assistant Principal Tamara Pronoitis and counselor Janet Holderbein.
School code restricts what students can display on their clothing.
Suddenly, she punched Ramos in the face several times, West said. The principal’s co-workers rushed to her defense, and the attack seemed to be over after Gibbs threw a few more punches at Ramos. At this point, Gibbs drove away from the school, according to witnesses.
Police arrested Gibbs at her residence. She is charged with two felonies – battery of a school employee and making threats to a public official – and two misdemeanors. One of the misdemeanors was for causing “injury based at least partly on race.” Gibbs is white; Ramos is a Latina.
West said Gibbs made reference to Ramos’ ethnicity during the altercation. Gibbs is being held at the San Joaquin County Jail. Bail is set at $134,000.
A couple of hours after the assault, a parent stopping by Fillmore was surprised when she learned what had happened.
“What would cause someone to attack the principal?” said Christina Lopez, who has two young children at Fillmore. “She’s here to protect the kids.”