A Danville mom who is accused of spitting on a middle school student that fought with her daughter will have her misdemeanor battery charge dismissed under an agreement reached in court Tuesday.
Phoebe Koenen, 53, who must attend 16 anger management classes and fulfill other parts of the agreement, is facing additional problems related to the incident at Diablo Vista Middle School this past school year. A civil suit has been filed on behalf of then-seventh grader Alexus Simmons, the girl at the center of the case, against Koenen and the San Ramon Valley school district.
The court agreement was reached Tuesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Walnut Creek in front of Judge Barbara Hinton in accordance with a diversion report prepared by the probation department.
Koenen was never arrested, and she has been free on her own recognizance. She and her criminal defense attorney, Joseph Motta, of Concord, declined to comment as they walked out of the courtroom Tuesday.
Simmons' mother, Cherese Roberson, of Sacramento, who had sent her daughter to live with an aunt because of the San Ramon Valley school district's high academic reputation, said she was disappointed.
"That, to me, is not holding her accountable," said Roberson, who did not attend the hearing. She has since had her daughter move home to live with her to get out of the district because of the incident.
Meanwhile, a civil suit was filed in Superior Court on Dec. 16 on Simmons' behalf against Koenen and the school district.
"It's simple," said Simmons' attorney, George Holland, of Oakland. "(Koenen) grabbed her by the arm and spit on her."
Holland said that the school knew Koenen was upset and coming to school to get her daughter, while Simmons was sent home.
"They had a duty to protect her, and they didn't do it," he said.
Holland, who separately serves as president of the Oakland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also thinks racism is involved. He is looking to see if Koenen, who is white, said anything racist to Simmons, who is black.
He said he is concerned that the incident happened at a school with mostly white students and few blacks where violence is rare.
Holland said no dollar figure has been set in connection with the civil court case.
He said it isn't a large case, yet he considers it important.
"If you don't send the message, it'll happen again and again," he said.
San Ramon Valley school district spokesman Terry Koehne said the district was unaware that the lawsuit was filed and had no comment.
Simmons, in a previous interview with MediaNews, said that she and Koenen's daughter had an altercation in class near the end of the school day April 15.
Simmons, who was suspended, said she was talking with friends after school when Koenen pushed her. Simmons said she tried to walk away, but Koenen grabbed her arm and spit on her.
Reach Eric Louie at 925-847-2123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.