By Phil Trexler
Beacon Journal staff writer
An Akron mother who went to school to eat breakfast with her first-grader wound up handcuffed on felony assault charges Friday after police said she tussled with the principal.
Jessica Smallwood, 26, is also accused of assaulting a teacher and a cafeteria worker during the altercation that started when she was ordered to sign in as a visitor at Glover elementary school, police said.
Police said Smallwood wrestled Principal Nancy Rich to the floor, injuring the administrator’s head. She’s also accused of shoving the teacher and cafeteria worker.
Smallwood’s 7-year-old son witnessed the incident and saw his mother being escorted in handcuffs by police, a relative said. The child was taken home shortly afterward by his aunt.
Smallwood, meanwhile, remained in the Summit County Jail pending an initial court appearance in Akron Municipal Court. Two of the assault charges are felonies because the attacks involved school instructors.
Jennifer Smallwood, the arrested mother’s sister, said there must be more to the story. She said Smallwood is well-known to the school faculty and walks her special-needs son into his classroom every morning.
She said Smallwood has talked often with school officials about her son’s curriculum and, at times, being a victim of bullies.
On occasion, she said, the mother would sit with the boy during the breakfast that is served daily to students.
“She’s not a bad person,” Jennifer Smallwood said in a phone interview. “Had this happened at a bar or something, OK. But for a school? That’s out of character for my sister.
“She loves kids. She was just trying to eat breakfast with her son. I don’t know how this got blown up. There’s got to be some other explanation. They know her at the school. She’s no stranger to them.”
Glover staffers declined to comment.
According to her sister, Smallwood walked into the school about 8:30 a.m. and was told by a staffer that she didn’t need to sign in. Minutes later, the principal confronted her and an altercation ensued.
“She was told by someone that she didn’t need a pass and when she got to the cafeteria, there was some confrontation between them, someone grabbed her and the next thing she knew, it all happened.”
Rich was knocked to the floor and struck her head, police said. Paramedics treated her at the scene. The teacher and a cafeteria worker were shoved during the fracas, police said. Those inside said the fight also involved shouting and the use of expletives. The melee caused school officials to lock down classrooms until order was restored by police about 9 a.m. The lockdown was called during a 911 call to police.
“She’s on the ground fighting one of our staff members,” an office worker told a dispatcher. “She threw our building principal onto the ground.”