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Columbia-Area Superintendent Finalist Investigated for Alleged Battery as Florida Principal

COLUMBIA — One of the Richland Two school district’s superintendent finalists was investigated by police over allegations of battery against students while she served as a Central Florida high school principal in 2019.

Investigation reports from the Kissimmee Police Department in Osceola County, Florida, say Nia Campbell, then principal of Osceola High School, was accused of using an “unreasonable amount of force” while trying to clear students from a basketball court as they celebrated an Osceola High victory. 

Richland Two’s Board of Trustees knew about those accusations and the police investigation when they named Campbell a superintendent finalist, according to Judy Sclair-Stein, a consultant at the Nebraska-based firm leading the district’s search. 

“Our vetting and investigation was that, while (the Florida incident) was investigated, there was no concern, no criminal record or anything like that, as a result of her intervention,” Sclair-Stein said, adding that Campbell’s current district also investigated those allegations before it hired her. 

Campbell, who currently serves as the chief academic officer of Aurora Public Schools in Aurora, Colorado, told the Post and Courier in a June 16 interview that back in 2019 she had been trying to get people off the basketball court for safety purposes and called the accusations “unfounded.”

The police and school system’s investigations “basically cleared me,” she said, adding that the investigations were “not reflective of my entire full, positive and successful career as an educational leader.” 

Videos of the 2019 postgame celebration show Campbell grabbing an 18-year-old’s hair and pulling him away from a crowd on the basketball court, according to a Kissimmee Police investigation report, which says the hair-pulling was an “unreasonable amount of force” that violated the state’s misdemeanor battery statute, though the student did not want to prosecute. 

The police investigation also found probable cause that Campbell violated the  same statute when she grabbed a juvenile student’s arm and pushed them, even though the student was not a part of the crowd in the middle of the basketball court. That finding led to an affidavit being sent to the State Attorney’s Office for review, though Osceola County court records do not show Campbell ever being charged with a crime.

Another police report says Campbell pushed a different juvenile student in the back three times. The investigation also reported one instance where she used “reasonable force” in pushing a student while trying to disperse the crowd. 

Campbell told police investigators at the time that she was “concerned for everyone’s safety,” and that after telling people to get off the court, she began “grabbing and pulling people away from the group,” according to the police reports.

Sclair-Stein, the search firm consultant, explained the story as Campbell trying to break up a post-game fight that had broken out on the court. However, the only mention of a fight in the police reports comes from a Osceola High dean, who told police that he initially thought the crowd was fighting, but later realized it was not.

The Richland Two board “did not seem concerned” about the police investigation, Sclair-Stein said, adding that, “through our vetting, we were able to learn that what you see online does not (necessarily) represent what actually occurred.” 

Board vice chair Monica Scott, who has taken a leading role in the superintendent search process, did not respond to requests for comment. Board chair Lindsay Agostini declined to comment. 

Campbell is one of three finalists for the Richland Two superintendent job, which opened in January after former Superintendent Baron Davis resigned. The three candidates will be in Columbia between June 20-22 for interviews, and the board is planning to announce its final choice June 27. 

During the June 16 interview, Campbell said she puts students first in her approach to educational leadership, as she strives to serve diverse groups of students and those who struggle with academic performance. 

“It’s really about being able to serve and do my part in improving the outcomes on behalf of those students,” Campbell said. 

Source : Charleston Post Courier