The alleged attack took place Wednesday at the Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School in Hempstead.
Police say 34-year-old Annika McKenzie assaulted the female teacher, identified as Catherine Engelhardt, with McKenzie’s attorney, Donald Rollock, claiming the teacher had “put her hands on” McKenzie’s 12-year-old daughter earlier in the day.
“As any loving parent, if someone puts their hand on your child, you’re going to react,” he said.
Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association President Elias Mestizo said Engelhardt is a veteran math teacher.
Mestizo said there was a security breach, with McKenzie walking into the building without being cleared by security. She reportedly went to the classroom and waited outside in the hallway for the teacher. As Engelhadt returned, there was a conversation about an “incident earlier in the day,” and the teacher called for security.
Authorities say the teacher was shoved against the wall, placed in a headlock and thrown to the floor, where she was kicked and punched by several students, including McKenzie’s 14-year-old niece. The teen was arrested, and both suspects are being charged with second-degree assault. McKenzie also faces a charge of strangulation.
The teen is being charged as a juvenile, and her case will be handled in family court.
A picture showed the teacher appearing to be unconscious on the ground. Another staff member came to help, and the victim was taken to Winthrop University Hospital.
“Yesterday, we saw what we don’t want to see anywhere in any school,” Mestizo said. “Many teachers throughout the district and in this school also do not feel safe in the building, and there are reasons for that. And action needs to be taken immediately.”
Engelhardt is now recovering at home, where she spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News.
“It’s not like I thought a parent would do something, but I knew something violent was going to happen,” she said. “I’ve warned them time and again that the children have no respect for adults. Yes, I fear for my safety. They can’t control the kids.”
Hempstead Superintendent Susan Johnson told Mestizo that the district acted swiftly in regards to the incident, but he says she stopped short of agreeing to a wider investigation.
Hempstead Village Police Chief Michael McGowan said McKenzie had not filed a police report claiming the teacher attacked her daughter earlier in the day, so at this point, that is not something they’re investigating. The claim is only coming from the lawyer at this point.