Lawyer claims assault on Indian-American student was response to vulgar threat

Ritu Jha-

A lawyer for a student accused of bullying and choking a Texas-based Indian-American student Shaan Pritmani claimed that Pritmani had a habit of making vulgar threats. Pritmani’s mother Sonika Kukreja dismissed that assertion.

The incident occurred May 11, at lunch in the Coppell Middle School North’s cafeteria. The video shows Nicholas Wellington, another eighth-grade student, telling Pritmani to leave, then attacking and choking him. The school suspended Pritmani for three days, and Wellington for one.

Kukreja said the school declined to take strong action against Wellington, and, saying it was Pritmani’s fault, gave him the harsher punishment.

When indica reached out to the Coppell Independent School District, Amanda Simpson, the director of communications, was circumspect.

“Because of student privacy laws and this being an ongoing investigation, we cannot share any further specifics on this situation or student discipline matters,” she said.

In a petition ‘Assaults at Schools – PROTECT THE VICTIM ‘ that Kukreja started, [has received 275,762 signatures]she mentioned that she shared with the school the video of the attack that Shaan’s friends had shared and requested a reassessment. But the school told them there would be no change in the action already taken. The school district’s school resources officer apparently refused to file a citation because the school administration had sought that it not be written as there have been too many bullying complaints lately. The Coppell police department also declined to act, despite the parents trying to get a complaint filed.

Mark Lassiter, the attorney representing Wellington, said the problem did not involve either bullying or racial targeting.

He told indica, “While we do not condone violence we believe it is important to understand that 14-year-old Nicholas was reacting to the young man making comments about how he was going to rape and molest family members and other children. We look forward to cooperating with any authority that wishes to investigate the matter.”

He added, “We believe this is a very serious case. Shaan made very threatening, gross and vulgar threats about molesting children, including Nicholas’s 2nd grader brother and another young man at the table (in the cafeteria).”

“There is a history of him doing similar things, making similar statements,” Lassiter said. “So it is very troubling to us that it comes out as [a case of] bullying. In fact, it is a reaction to someone saying he is going to rape your eight-year-old [brother],” Lassiter told indica. “No one wants to share a table with [Shaan]… He was first asked to leave – and he did not leave… Most of the time if a young man says [things] like that he would be investigated for a mental issue…”

Lassiter said the school was aware that Shaan has been accused of disturbing behavior in the past.

Lassiter said he himself came into the picture because the Wellington family had started receiving threats and someone wearing a mask had attacked their home.

“The school is investigating [the matter] and we have to work with the school authorities,” he said.

In an email response to indica, Kukreja reacted to Lassiter’s assertion, writing, “ABSOLUTELY BULL — – Story is fabricated!” She added: “My son has had no disciplinary issues, Shaan is a normal kid, Loves art, likes to hangout with friends and has a kind heart.”

“The video clearly shows bullying and racism has been an issue in the past and [that they] still exist,” said Jason, whose child, a student at the same school, was bullied this year. “Unfortunately, it exists everywhere. This case, however, is not a racial incident; it is a bullying issue and an assault that should have had an arrest made. We are currently working on trying to get this done.”

Manish Sethi of Coppell ISD board of trustees told indica he is aware of a video circulating on social media showing an incident at the middle school.

“Thankfully, we were aware of the situation as soon as it occurred and have been working directly with the students and parents involved to support and address all facets of what happened,” Sethi said. “Bullying, both verbal and physical, as well as physical acts of aggression are never acceptable and do not align with who we are at CISD and our core values.

He said that because of student privacy laws and the ongoing investigation, he could not share specifics. Sethi did say that the incident is being investigated by the school and the district according to the CISD Student Code of Conduct.