Coach charges dismissed, student may face charges
BY PORTSIA SMITH
An assault charge was dismissed today against a Caroline High School teacher accused of fighting a student.
Now, prosecutors say the 16-year-old male student may face charges for assaulting the teacher.
Nathaniel Mewborn, a math teacher and former head junior varsity football coach, had been charged with assault and battery in connection with an Aug. 18 incident that was captured on a school bus video camera.
But after a hearing in Caroline Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court today, that charge was dismissed with prejudice, which means it cannot be brought back, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Tony Spencer.
“I watched the videotape numerous times, both at live speed and frame by frame,” Spencer said. “It is clear that Mr. Mewborn did absolutely nothing wrong. In fact, he should be commended for taking action to defuse a potentially dangerous situation.”
Mewborn voluntarily resigned his coaching position after the incident, which occurred in the school’s parking lot after a practice session.
The Caroline junior wasn’t an active player, but was working toward possibly playing.
The boy’s mother, Dana Pankey, said she initially didn’t want to press criminal charges against Mewborn because he had already given up his job as a coach and she thought that was sufficient.
But Pankey said Sunday night she changed her mind after Caroline school administrators showed her a videotape of the incident last week.
Mewborn was charged Wednesday after the student’s mother swore out a warrant.
According to Spencer’s interpretation of the video, the incident occurred as students were boarding an after-school activity bus and “a male student who had boarded the bus began to get violent and Mr. Mewborn had to grab the student to protect himself and others.”
He said there was a verbal disagreement between the two about the student not wearing a shirt on the bus, which is against school policy.
Spencer says when Mewborn tried to direct the student off of the bus, the student got aggressive and pushed Newborn’s hand away, and then pushed him.
Then, Spencer said Mewborn grabbed the student and a struggle ensued.
Spencer said as the student walked near the front of the bus he “takes his hat and headphones off, puts them down on a seat, and swings his elbow back, hitting Mr. Newborn in the face and knocking his glasses off.”
Spencer said Mewborn grabbed the student to protect himself, and the student struggled before swinging at the teacher twice. That’s when Mewborn put the student in a bear hug and guided him to a seat, Spencer said.
The student couldn’t be seen in the next portion of the videotape, but Spencer said the coach appeared to be on top of him and a few words were exchanged, such as “I can’t breathe man” and “If you calm down, I’ll let you go.”
Based on witness statements, Spencer said the two continued to struggle and Mewborn picked the student up and carried him off the bus. As the student kept struggling, Mewborn received a cut to the arm, Spencer said.
Both Mewborn and the student exchanged curse words at each other, Spencer said.
“Mr. Mewborn has expressed that he regrets cursing back at the student, however, I think he should be given some leeway,” Spencer said. “He had just been attacked and had to defend himself against a strong, young man. I’m sure his adrenaline was pumping pretty hard at the time.”
Spencer said he has referred the case to the Caroline sheriff’s office.
“I think the student should be prosecuted for assaulting Mr. Mewborn,” he said.
Spencer also noted that the student has had previous court appearance for two separate incidents that occurred on a school bus, which include throwing objects out of a school bus window at the windshield of a passing car and for punching and breaking a school bus window.
Assistant School Superintendent Eric Cunningham said Mewborn, who had been on paid administrative leave since Wednesday, will be reinstated as a teacher and his status as a coach will be reviewed by school officials.
“We believed all along that there was no crime committed,” Cunningham said today. “Now that all of the facts have been reviewed, Coach Mewborn acted in the best conduct possible under the circumstances.”
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419