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Videos of middle schoolers fighting in class while teacher is present spur outrage. She responds, 'What do you want me to do? ... Those kids are bigger than me.'

Image source: Twitter video screenshot via @LarrySReports, composite

Videos of students fighting in a Georgia middle school classroom while a teacher is present have resulted in calls to fire the teacher — but she responded to WSB-TV about the issue and said, "What do you want me to do? ... Those kids are bigger than me."

What are the details?

WSB published a story about the issue last week, showing cellphone videos appearing to depict students fighting each other in a Rex Mill Middle School classroom in Clayton County.

The station said in one video the teacher breaks up a fight — but in another sits back at her desk. WSB said there were claims that the teacher encouraged students to fight.

The station added that in one of the dozen videos it obtained, the teacher appears to ask, “Do you know how to slap box?” WSB noted that other students can be seen in the background standing on chairs and desks to record the fights.

But the teacher told the station in a follow-up story she isn't encouraging fighting.

When a WSB reporter asked the teacher in question, Janette Bagtas, if she encouraged the fighting, Bagtas replied, “No, ma’am, not by any means am I encouraging.”

Bagtas — a mother of two who has taught sixth through eighth grade at Rex Mill for seven years — added to the station that fighting is what students chose to play during classroom free time. She added to WSB that free time is known as incentive time in the district.

What's more, Bagtas told the station that the videos leave out when she presses a security button for help.

“We tell them to stop, we push the button,” Bagtas explained to WSB, adding that's all she's required to do.

“What do you want me to do? I’m asking them. I’m asking everybody. What do you want me to do? What more can I do?” Bagtas asked the station. “Those kids are bigger than me. I’ve been hit; I was hit in the shoulder twice.”

Parent Tatiana Couben told WSB her child is a Rex Mill student and that the videos are greatly disturbing: "Every kid in those videos ... they were African-American, young black men. That’s a double not okay. They can’t think that behavior is okay."

What did the school district have to say?

Reynard Walker, Clayton County Public Schools chief of police, told WSB when a teacher or staff member presses the Centegix CrisisAlert button three times, the school resource officer is alerted.

Walker — who added to the station that Rex Mill Middle School has only one school resource officer — said that if the system appears to be malfunctioning or if the officer isn't responding, the teacher can use the classroom's phone to talk to the front office or another teacher.

A district spokesperson released a statement about the security button protocol, WSB reported:

Clayton County Public Schools continues to prioritize the safety of all staff and students. To this end, the district began utilizing the Centegix Alert System during the 2019-2020 School Year. While the investigation into this matter is ongoing, the district is not aware of any reports of these alert buttons not functioning as intended.

'Never again'

Clayton County Public Schools told the station the Bagtas investigation is ongoing — but she added to WSB that she has no plans to teach ever again.

“Never again. Never again. Never again," she emphasized to the station. "I can’t even say it enough."

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