POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. (AP) -- The Mason County school board has fired a teacher who is accused of choking a student.
James E. Jones II is facing felony child abuse and misdemeanor battery charges stemming from the incident.
Board of Education members terminated Jones' employment Tuesday evening following an open hearing.
Jones had been on suspension without pay since his arrest in February.
According to a criminal complaint, Jones wrestled with a student in a classroom at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High on Feb. 13.
The complaint says he and the student began choking each other and the altercation "got out of control."
Jones says he was trying to defend himself.
James Jones, 52, is out on bond after being formally charged on Monday, Feb. 25.
"When the officer came to arrest me and told me of the charges, I thought it was a joke," said Jones, who has been suspended without pay since Feb. 14. "In this country, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but when it comes to the Mason County Board of Education, I guess you're guilty until proven innocent."
In a copy of the criminal complaint obtained by WSAZ.com, Jones is accused of engaging in activity that caused substantial risk of injury to one of his students.
The complaint states:
"He wrestled with the juvenile until they began choking each other. The wrestling/choking got out of control and Jones, as the adult, continued in this activity until the child's face turned red and his airway was cut off."
Jones said he was attempting to protect himself from injury.
"This 16-year-old student is known at school for his rough housing and troubled behavior," Jones said. "I was just back in school after being sick with an upper respiratory infection, and the student grabbed my tie and started choking me after I tugged at his sweatshirt to get him come sit back down in class. While he was choking me with my tie, I grabbed the two strings of his hoodie, choked him back and told him I'd let go when he let go."
Jones says he had documented problems with the juvenile in the past.
"This is a student who brought a knife to school and was throwing it in the ceiling," Jones said. "Yet, as far as I know, nothing's been done to punish the student for that behavior."
In a confidential letter written to Jones by the county school superintendent, Jones is reprimanded for not taking action in response to the conduct.
In a copy of that letter provided to WSAZ.com by Jones, it states: "I (Superintendent Suzanne Dickens) received a report from a parent of the student in possession of the knife that you have contacted him urging him to refrain from providing any information regarding the incidents of inappropriate activities in your classroom."
When WSAZ stopped by the board office to discuss whether the student in question was punished for brandishing a weapon, we were told Superintendent Suzanne Dickens was in meetings all afternoon and would not be available for comment.
"It's amazing to me you can spend a lifetime in a classroom," Jones said. "All it takes is one allegation."
Jones is awaiting notification from the prosecuting attorney's office about the legal timeline of the criminal complaint.
Meanwhile, a board of education hearing is scheduled at 6 p.m. March 12 when the board will consider Jones' possible termination.
"It's unfair," Jones said. "I'm in the fight of my life, and I'm expecting people there on my behalf to let the board know I deserve to be in that classroom."
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