The parent charged with knocking out a Hempstead teacher claimed the school official "pushed me first" in an encounter after her daughter said the teacher grabbed her and pushed her against a wall, court records show.
"She began to call for security and tried to push past me, hitting me in my right shoulder," defendant Annika McKenzie, 34, also told police after the April 15 incident at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School. "My left arm came around catching her in the shoulder but I did not choke her. She then fell to the ground."
The Hempstead woman pleaded not guilty Thursday to an indictment charging felony assault, misdemeanor trespassing and assault charges, and harassment and disorderly conduct violations.
Authorities said video surveillance recorded the incident, which sparked a rally where teachers, parents and union officials demanded tighter security.
Hempstead Village police had said the teacher asked McKenzie to get a security pass and then called for security before things got worse.
"The parent continued the conversation, got into an argument and then pushed the teacher against the wall, put her in a headlock and threw her to the hallway floor," Hempstead Village Police Chief Michael McGowan said at the time.
A union official said the victim was unconscious for several minutes.
Police also arrested McKenzie's 14-year-old niece, alleging she punched the teacher's head.
According to a statement in court records, McKenzie said her 12-year-old daughter called her and said the teacher put her hands on her. She told police she went through security and waited outside a classroom before the teacher approached, the statement says.
The teacher told McKenzie her daughter was lying, but McKenzie said her niece also said she saw what happened, McKenzie told police.
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Jerald Carter kept McKenzie's bail at $7,500 and signed an order telling her to stay away from the 58-year-old math teacher. The teacher didn't respond to a phone message Thursday.
Prosecutors said McKenzie is facing up to 7 years in prison if found guilty, with acting District Attorney Madeline Singas saying in a prepared statement Thursday that "violence and disregard for the law should not occur inside any school."
McKenzie's attorney, Donald Rollock, said "any parent whose child has been touched . . . is going to be upset and they're going to react."
He added: "Maybe it's time for the school district and everybody else to start taking a look at the teacher's handling of the situation."
McKenzie ignored questions as she left the courthouse.