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Mason school closes investigation over Trump pin incident

Posted at 3:18 PM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 15:18:24-05

MASON, Mich. — Mason Schools has released a statement in regards to an alleged incident that happened at the school on December 5 between a teacher and a student.

They said in their statement:
Following an investigation by the Mason Police Department, the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office declined to press criminal charges in the matter. Mason Public Schools officials have completed their internal investigation and have disciplined the teacher appropriately.

“While not criminal, the teacher’s actions were inappropriate and misrepresented the mission of the district,” says Ronald Drzewicki, Mason Public Schools Superintendent. “MPS staff are role models. Our core values include respect, responsibility and compassion. We expect all MPS staff to model these values in interactions at school, especially with students.”

FOX 47 has contacted Mason Schools for comment about what source of disciplinary actions were taken or if the teacher, Paul Kato, is still on staff at the high school.

The Ingham County Prosecutors Office told News 10 they were not going to file assault charges against Kato because there is no credible evidence of criminal conduct.

Chief Don Hanson of Mason Police confirmed that an alleged assault occurred at Mason Public School District on Dec. 5.

And after what the Mason Police called, "a comprehensive investigation," was conducted, the case was turned over to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office for review.

They are saying that criminal charges were denied in this case and that the criminal investigation is closed.

In a statement released to FOX 47, the superintendent said,"We appreciate the prompt and thorough investigation by the Mason Police Department,” said Ronald Drzewicki, Mason Public Schools Superintendent.

The assault was reported by a student, Sadie Earegood, against a Kato around 2:45 on Dec. 5.

Earegood declined to comment when asked about the outcome of the investigation.

Mason High School said they followed procedure by contacting law enforcement and conducting interviews.

They were not saying what happened.

“Mason Public Schools takes all concerns seriously,” said Drzewicki. “We are committed to providing a positive learning environment for our students.”

Drzewicki added that the incident did not affect the safety of the students or staff, but because the matter appeared on social media, they wanted to provide some information.

"Federal law prohibits us from discussing student-specific information with anyone other than law enforcement or legal counsel."

He said questions could be directed to him about the incident, however federal privacy laws will limit what he could share.

NEWS 10 talked to Sadie Earegood, after the alleged incident. She told us she was assaulted by a teacher during school hours because she supported President Donald Trump.

She said that Paul Kato, the media technology teacher at Mason High, was the teacher involved.

Earegood is 16 and a junior at the school. She said Kato started off by saying he didn't like the pin she was wearing.

"I was just really shocked that a teacher would especially do that," she said. "He's talking about the 'Women for Trump' pin and I said, 'that's fine you don't have to like it, we can have our opinions.'"

Earegood described a struggle between herself and Kato where he tried to take the pin off her.

"He grabbed it and I pulled, I tried to push his hand away and he grabbed my shoulder," she said. "(He) just kind of put his hand there, and then he started pulling more and more and I just started backing up."

She said Kato then put the pin upside down on his shirt and stated that it belonged that way.

The Earegoods filed a police report.

“I made a criminal assault and larceny report against the teacher," said Capi Earegood, Sadie's mother. "He had no right to put his hands on my child over a pin or anything else. The first amendment gives everyone the right to express their freedom of speech. No one should get that upset about someone wearing a political pin.”

The Mason School District has not confirmed with us that the allegations against Kato are true.

The dress code for Mason High School does not state anything about political paraphernalia not being allowed.

We found this: Clothing that displays alcohol, drugs, tobacco, gang association, weapons, sexual or suggestive references, profanity, violence, intimidation or organizations promoting any of these are not appropriate.

It also states that: the School recognizes the right of students to express themselves. With the right of expression comes the responsibility to do it appropriately. Students may distribute or display, at appropriate times, non-sponsored, non-commercial written material and petitions; buttons, badges, or other insignia; clothing, insignia, and banners; and audio and video materials. All items must meet the following school guidelines: A. A material cannot be displayed if it: 1. is obscene to minors, libelous, indecent and pervasively or vulgar, 2. advertises any product or service not permitted to minors by law, 3. intends to be insulting or harassing, 4. intends to incite fighting or presents a likelihood of disrupting school or a school event. 5. Presents a clear and present likelihood that, either because of its content or manner of distribution or display, it causes or is likely to cause a material and substantial disruption of school or school activities, a violation of school regulations, or the commission of an unlawful act. 17 B. Materials may not be displayed or distributed during class periods, or during passing times between classes. Permission may be granted for display or distribution during lunch periods and after school in designated locations, as long as exits are not blocked and there is proper access and egress to the building. In order to insure whether or not materials they wish to display meet school guidelines, students must present them to the principal twenty-four (24) hours prior to display.

Earegood said that she won't be silenced and just wants people to know that she will continue to show her political views.

"I just want him to know that it's not okay to do that. I want this to be a learning experience for other teachers, and I'm not going to stop wearing my political stuff."

Paul Kato is originally from Nigeria. He worked to establish a residential soccer school in Nigeria for 10 years, and the school officially opened in 2018.

It's called the Kato International Training Academy (KITA) and it opened with 24 students.

Kato has also coached the high school soccer team in Mason.

His lawyer, Ray Correll, told us that Kato was on paid leave during the investigation and should be returning to school soon.

“I would certainly hope that he would be able to get back and teach and move on with his life,” Correll said of Kato.

He also said that Kato has received death threats since the story broke. “He has received death threats over this and I sure hope that everybody moves on,” Correll said.

As far as the actual incident of removing the pin and putting it on, Correll wouldn't say if Kato took the pin off Earegood's shirt.

He added that Kato cooperated with the police and found out has been notified that there wouldn’t be criminal charges.

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