A St. Paul teacher seriously hurt when a student attacked him is still having difficulties in his daily life. John Ekblad's 21-year career teaching science came to a sudden end in late 2015 when he tried to break up a cafeteria fight at Central High School.
A student punched Ekblad before choking him until the teacher passed out. Ekblad was unconscious for 10 to 20 seconds, and suffered a concussion and traumatic brain injury.
He's still dealing with short-term memory loss, hearing problems, and numbness on the right side of his body. Ekblad is right-handed, but that hand shakes, sometimes uncontrollably.
The attacker was 16 at the time. He pleaded guilty to felony third-degree assault and other charges. Early last year, a judge sentenced the teen to 90 days house arrest, supervised probation, and community service.
The 56-year-old sued the school system in 2016, saying disciplinary policies meant to reduce racial disparities in suspensions has led to out-of-control violence, putting teachers at risk.
The St. Paul public school district has asked a federal judge to dismiss Ekblad's lawsuit.
An attorney for the schools and former superintendent Valeria Silva says in court documents that they're immune from such litigation. The district also argues because Ekblad faced the "special hazard of dealing with and breaking up fights" as a lunchroom supervisor, it should be up to the state workers compensation system to resolve the matter — not the courts.
Ekblad told MPR News reporter Matt Sepic in an interview he "got knocked of my profession because of this. I'm trying to keep up the good fight for kids No. 1, and for teachers."
"How many kids in the next 12 years could I have had a positive effect on?"
Click the audio above to listen to the full interview.