College Professor Arrested and Charged With Battery Over Allegedly Closing Laptop on Student’s Fingers

Frank Rybick, a college professor at Valdosta State University was arrested charged with battery after he allegedly closed a laptop on the hands of a student in his class. Valdosta State University has also suspended Rybick. However, various students have come forward to support Rybicki.


Rybicki is an assistant professor of mass media at Valdosta State University and reportedly caught a student surfing in his class. The student proceeded to file a criminal complaint that her finger or fingers were hurt by the action. However, the student newspaper, The Spectator,quoted students who said that the student was surfing in violation of the rules and that Rybicki is a great teacher. Some students say the student was warned about her surfing and ignored Rybicki. The student newspaper quotes students as saying that the student argued with Rybicki and that the professor decided to end the class due to the disruption.

Obviously, closing a laptop on a student’s fingers should never be done or condoned. However, the elevation of such an incident to a criminal charge is a disturbing escalation, particularly absent a serious injury. One could easily imagine that a finger was caught by the closing of the computer without any intent to do so by Rybicki. The 22-year-old female student then went to the VSUPD to report an assault. The Spectator reports that students who came to the next class were met by VSUPD who warned students who witnessed the event to refrain from speaking with anyone, including the media.

The college website states that Rybicki holds a Ph.D. from Duquesne University, a M.A. from University of Southern California, and a B.A. from California State University, Los Angeles. His focus is on Media Law, Audio/Video Production, New Technologies.

Professors are increasingly banning laptops from classrooms because of a small number of students who violate the rules and surf in class. I allow computers but I have a strict policy against surfing. Yet, the students who continue to act in this juvenile fashion are threatening the use of computers for all students.

In reading these articles, I fail to see why this was treated as a criminal matter as opposed to an internal matter within the college. Recently, we saw a teacher arrested for rattling a desk in class. Once again, these cases raise concerns over the criminalization of conduct that was once handled informally within a school.

Source: Inside Higher Education first found on ABA Journal

Jonathan Turley

23 thoughts on “College Professor Arrested and Charged With Battery Over Allegedly Closing Laptop on Student’s Fingers”

  1. In general battery is being pressed over acts previously considered theatrical.

    I met a gal who weighed about 100 lbs who got 6 months for slapping her 6′ 5 ” 26 year old boyfriend’s face. It wasn’t good but I saw the exact same act on TV drama presented as a non criminal act.

  2. The entire power-and-control freak, multi-millions in overcompensating, self-loathing judgemental-justMENTAL mock-Puritan A-N-G-L-O-phone/zones US/UK/CAN/OZ/NZ/IE, all in deep-denial need – H – E – L – P !

  3. I wonder if this student is going to pass this class. I also wonder why the UniCops didn’t arrest her for the misdemeanor offense of being a Bitch in Public.

  4. Welcome to Police State University.

    As disturbing as the criminal charge brought in a no-injury case is the fact that the University Police arrested the professor. Don’t these people know how to issue a summons? I don’t believe in the model that made faculty little tin gods, but teachers should be accorded more dignity than this.

    And then there’s the matter of the cops telling students not to talk about the incident to anyone, including the press. Since when do police have the right to impose unilateral gag orders? Have they heard of the First Amendment at Valdosta State? I hope the editors of the student newspaper there have the spine to protest this mess.

  5. Mike S.,

    “What those others couldn’t understand is that children hunger for structure/limits as a means of becoming educated on how one leads ones’ life.”

    I agree. I ran a structured class. I was clear about what my expectations were. I always gave explicit instructions. Children felt safe because they knew what my expectations were, knew what they were supposed to do, knew I’d provide help to them when they needed it. My appraoch was all about teaching my students how to do things themselves, showing them how to become more independent, helping them to achieve. That’s how children develop self-esteem.

    I’m sure your daughters–like mine–felt safer with structure and limits than the children of parents who didn’t impose any on them.

  6. “Over the years, I–like many of the teachers I worked with–developed a program/style of teaching that took the best of both the traditional, structured classroom and the open/Summerhill type classroom.”

    Elaine,

    Summerhill was an experiment that couldn’t be duplicated on a mass basis because of the difficulties you describe, from knowledge gained from years of experience. If you remember though, admittedly it’s been a long time for me since I read Neill, he believed in structure also, but disagreed with the methodology that imposed a time limit on gaining specific pieces of knowledge. Perhaps in calling the system “factory-based” I was unclear in my statement. My meaning is to see education as a process, rather than as a specific time-limited accretion of goals and standards.

    My guidebook for parenting, which I think goes along with teaching symbiotically was “Between Parent and Child”/”Between
    Parent and Teenager” by Chaim Ginott, M.D. In it Dr. G talked of
    the need to impose structure and limits, while encouraging independent behavior within those defined bounds. It worked well for me and my wife with our two children. We were actually seen by others as being stricter parents, although we allowed our children more freedom of choice and expression than other parents. What those others couldn’t understand is that children hunger for structure/limits as a means of becoming educated on how one leads ones’ life.

  7. Mike S.,

    “However, from my perspective our whole approach to education, which actually uses a “factory-based” model, is misguided and helps to stifle many students intelligence and futures.”

    I think you’d find that many schools haven’t used the “factory model” in many years. Back in the 1970s, I was teaching in a multi-grade open concept classroom with a team teacher. The Summerhill approach was in vogue in those days. I think its educational philosophy went a bit too far. Our open concept school eventually became less open. The folding walls closed. Each teacher returned to working with one class of students again. Unfortunately, too many kids didn’t get the structure they needed in the open concept/work at your own pace classes. Too many children didn’t learn the skills they needed. Kids got lost. Most children with ADHD didn’t do well in classrooms with little structure, too little instruction in skills, and too much distraction. Children needed more guidance from adults.

    Over the years, I–like many of the teachers I worked with–developed a program/style of teaching that took the best of both the traditional, structured classroom and the open/Summerhill type classroom. Children do develop their skills at different levels–but teachers aren’t omniscient and can’t know when each child is ready to learn each new concept…or develop a new skill. I taught grade level material to the class. I gave extra help to those who needed it. I provided other challenging materials for children who were advanced. We did lots of creative projects. I took my children on field trips to the planetarium, a butterfly house, the woods, an Audubon sanctuary, etc. I gave my students lots of individual attention.

    You and I could probably get into an extended discussion on this subject. It’s a bit difficult writing about all the things that I learned about children and education when I was teaching and about all the different approaches that I tried over the years.

  8. “One thing that I think is going to destroy many of the educational improvements we’ve made in this country in regard to teachers addressing the needs of all different types of learners is the intense focus on prepping children for mandated standardized tests that has taken hold in recent years. Teachers are expected to fit square kids into round holes. It takes all the joy out of teaching and learning. It also bastardizes the educational process.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more, but there is another factor to take into account. Yes standardized testing was and is a poor judge of a given student’s abilities and the overemphasis on it today is a grave educational mistake, usually made by politicos rather than educators. However, from my perspective our whole approach to education, which actually uses a “factory-based” model, is misguided and helps to stifle many students intelligence and futures.

    I’ve always been intrigued by the work of A.S. Neill and his Summerhill School. To me it is a blueprint of how to educate. As you well know from your own experience, students develop their skills at different rates and to put expectations on their learning simply due to their age makes little sense, except to a system that cares more for regimentation and cost effectiveness
    than it does for actually educating. The system is at fault and
    though that fault is many times ameliorated by dedicated teachers, many young lives are warped and stunted in the process.

  9. Honestly, I’m not sure this reaches the level of “assault.” Perhaps if the screen was HULK-SMASHED down on her fingers, but if the prof simply closed the screen and she didn’t have the sense to pull her hands away…
    I think this may be setting the bar a bit too low.

  10. Mike S.,

    “Were I in school today, with my laptop, I would no doubt play solitaire as I listened. In essence I’m saying that sometimes rules are too all inclusive attempts to enforce a uniformity, that brooks no exception.”

    A teacher, however, would most likely have to deal with another problem if he/she allowed an exception to a rule for some students. Other students would complain that the teacher was being unfair and claim that those who didn’t have to abide by the rule were getting preferential treatment.

    Times have changed in education. More children are getting diagnosed with attentional problems at an earlier age and many teachers adapt their programs for the children and/or learn how to address their issues in more positive ways. I speak from experience. I often got more than my share of students with ADHD and organizational problems in my class. An interesting thing is that classrooms in which these kinds of students can concentrate better and where they can achieve are also classrooms where the great majority of students can do so as well.

    One thing that I think is going to destroy many of the educational improvements we’ve made in this country in regard to teachers addressing the needs of all different types of learners is the intense focus on prepping children for mandated standardized tests that has taken hold in recent years. Teachers are expected to fit square kids into round holes. It takes all the joy out of teaching and learning. It also bastardizes the educational process.

  11. Clearly another case of wrongful prosecution where all the prosecutor’s involved in this case need their names, photos, addresses, schedules, work and personal vehicles, relatives, frequent contacts and any other relevant information posted and constantly reminded to the citizens of that community so the end-goal of true Justice might be able to prevail in the end. Begin the forfeiture process of each of their positions and make sure they are banned for life in any position of any community government at any level for ever more. Plus, give a tax break to stores that offer guns and ammunition for sale. This is not an immediate resolution seeking Justice, but it could possibly turn out for the best in the long run.

  12. “I hope he broke her finger nails….That would have been hell…It is hard to get good profs and if this one is as good as they say….Maybe its time for the student to go…be dismissed from college as most can do under the student conduct code….”

    Agreed. It is highly unlikely he purposely closed the laptop on her immature, self-important and selfish little fingers. I suspect she reported the incident as an assault because her ego was deflated after being admonished – again – for breaking class rules.

  13. “Professors are increasingly banning laptops from classrooms because of a small number of students who violate the rules and surf in class. I allow computers but I have a strict policy against surfing. Yet, the students who continue to act in this juvenile fashion are threatening the use of computers for all students.”

    This is actually a situation that plays out in various aspects of life, where a small minority of people, unwilling to abide by reasonable rules, creates a climate that has a negative effect on their peers. My schooldays were pre-laptop, but I can imagine what a benefit they would be to today’s student.

    However, there is another side to this which educators sometimes miss. I always was very fidgety in school and found lectures to be interminable at all educational levels. Probably I have a touch of ADHD, or was somewhat bored by the material. I developed a method of drawing elaborate colored designs as I listened to my teacher. Until they got to know me, they would feel I was being inattentive and so ask me questions aimed to show my lack of attention. Invariably I would answer quoting exactly what they said and then answer their question. Many took it well and understood my process, some though would feel disrespected and feel rancorous towards me. I never needed notes
    because this little trick would focus me to absorb the topic.

    Were I in school today, with my laptop, I would no doubt play solitaire as I listened. In essence I’m saying that sometimes rules are too all inclusive attempts to enforce a uniformity, that brooks no exception.

    Nevertheless, despite my own quirkiness, this student seemed to be deliberately baiting the Professor and her quickness to press charges, blowing the entire incident way out of proportion, indicates to me that she had an agenda that was hardly innocent.
    At the very best the professor can be said to have mildly over-reacted and that is no cause for action or damages.

  14. I’m not sure I agree with the views here.
    As a student she should be admonished for breaking the rules, but not physically by the instructor.

    I as a student (some time ago) understood I was there was to learn, but I was really there to get some paper that said I was edjumacated; however if an instructor ever assaulted me, even in such a minor way, I’m not sure that I would not have kicked his ass on the spot.

    Anonymously Yours that’s the funny thing about assault it does not have to be of a degree that permanent bodily injury must occur before you are allowed to defend yourself.

    Regardless of what some are saying, how good is this instructor that has the impunity to assume he can assault anyone simply by his position in an educational environment.

    My main point is once the instructor made any type of physical contact with the student the crime of assault happened. If you want to test my theory go touch a cop then from your jail cell tell us what level of felony assault you are charged with.

  15. I hope he broke her finger nails….That would have been hell…It is hard to get good profs and if this one is as good as they say….Maybe its time for the student to go…be dismissed from college as most can do under the student conduct code….

    An Assault….let me tell you what an assault is…spanking leading to bloody welts….have a desk kicked out from under you while seated at it….sometimes these are just the cost of being a boy….and a priest for a teach…..and an angry teacher……

    Come on….this is just BS…

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