Should a High School Principal Have Been Arrested?

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, October 13, 2003.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the Personal Story segment tonight, as we have been reporting, many public schools in this country are out of control.  Last year, a fight broke out at the Dyett Academic Center, a high school in Chicago, a public high school.

Principal Cheryl Marshall Washington (search) called the cops because she thought one of the brawlers had a gun.  And get this, those fighting were all females.  When no gun was found, Ms. Washington herself was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false report.

Joining us now from Chicago is Ms. Washington, who's suing the Chicago Police Department (search) for $10 million, and her attorney, R. Eugene Pincham.

All right, Ms. Washington obviously going to start with you.  Now the cops say that you admitted you called them, saying that one of these ladies or women or girls, whatever you want to call them, had a gun because she wanted them to get to the school faster.  Is that true?


O'REILLY:  All right.

WASHINGTON:  They made that statement, but that is not the way that it  happened. 

O'REILLY:  Did you see the gun that the girl allegedly had?

WASHINGTON:  No, I did not.  It was the beginning of school on a Monday morning at about 5 minutes to 8:00.  And children were entering the building.  I had gotten the notice that there was a fight.  And I was going towards the direction of the fight, when one student on the left side indicated that a student was down.  And I kept walking.

And a student on my right said someone has a gun.

O'REILLY:  Okay.  So you heard some kid say somebody had a gun.  You reacted.  Police got that message.  They came to the school.  No gun was found.  None of the girls were arrested.  There were six of them, right?  None were arrested?

WASHINGTON:  No, all six of them were arrested.  However, the police department never did conduct a search of the school for a gun.  That's the first thing.


WASHINGTON:  The next thing is the first officer who was there, once we talked in my office with my superior, it was decided that it was a school issue and that we would handle it from there, and we were in the process of suspending the girls, and they were going to be arrested.

O'REILLY:  And then they came back and arrested you.

WASHINGTON:  It wasn't until about an hour and a half later, while I was addressing 250 students and parents and staff members, that the acting desk sergeant came to make the arrest.

O'REILLY:  OK.  Now what is this disorderly conduct?  I can understand filing a false report.

By the way, you were exonerated because of a variety of things.  So that that case is out.

But what is this disorderly conduct?

WASHINGTON:  Well, originally, they were trying to file felony charges.  And I'll let Mr. Pincham kind of address that.

O'REILLY:  Yes.  What's the disorderly conduct, Counselor?

R. EUGENE PINCHAM, ATTORNEY:  Well, the disorderly conduct allegedly was making a false police report.  It was...

O'REILLY:  So it's the same thing?

PINCHAM:  Same -- yes, same thing really.

O'REILLY:  OK.  So the -- the principal didn't hit somebody or yell at somebody.

PINCHAM:  No, no.

O'REILLY:  All right.

PINCHAM:  No, no.  Nothing like that.

O'REILLY:  Now, Ms. Washington, I've got to ask you this.  I mean it looks like you -- they overreacted.  And we called the Chicago Police Department, and they did not have the courtesy to get back to us, so we don't have any sympathy for them.  They could have put forth their point of view here.

You're going after them for 10-million bucks?  Do you think that's overreacting, Madam?

WASHINGTON:  Well, I'm going to let Judge Pincham address that.  However, there is no amount of money that can take the place of the anguish that my family, my friends, and my school community have gone through for this past year after my arrest.

O'REILLY:  Do you feel you were humiliated by the police?

WASHINGTON:  Most definitely so.

O'REILLY:  OK.  And you're going to go back to the same school next month?

WASHINGTON:  I've been at the school ever since this happened.  My leave of absence has nothing to do with that.  This was a medical issue that needed to be addressed at this time...


WASHINGTON:  ... and that's why I'm on medical leave.

O'REILLY:  Now I've got to ask you.  This is a little bit off the topic because, you know, whatever happens with the lawsuit, we'll tell everybody, but we don't -- we can't try it here, obviously.

What's the main problem you have to face in that school?  You have fighting and all of that.  Is it a disintegration of the family, that these kids come from unstable families?  Is that the big thing you have to fight?

WASHINGTON:  Actually, at my school, we are an urban school.  However, I do have good community support.  The staff is very supportive, and those issues that are out in the community most times do not come into the building.

But Monday morning, in most urban schools, is a hot time because whatever happened over the weekend usually comes over into the school.  But we have -- usually have a very good handle on it.

O'REILLY:  All right, but...

WASHINGTON:  This was a different situation.

O'REILLY:  ... again, the genesis of it is -- is it poor adult supervision on the outside so then the kids come in and they're not disciplined?  Is that the main problem?

WASHINGTON:  Really, I can't say what the main problem -- there are a lot of problems here that we're looking at, but those particular students I have a good relationship with their parents, and even after my arrest, when I was released, the parents and the students did embrace me and they did apologize for what had happened.

O'REILLY:  All right.  So you -- the six that got into the fight did apologize and all of that.

WASHINGTON:  Certainly they did.

O'REILLY:  Have you ever had a gun in the school in the past, Ms. Washington?

WASHINGTON:  We have never found a gun, but there have been reports, and we have had the opportunity or circumstance to call the police.

O'REILLY:  OK.  All right.  Well, we're glad you didn't get charged.  We thought that was ridiculous.  And we'll follow the case.

Counselor, Ms. Washington, thanks very much.



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