Scottsdale police on Tuesday arrested the husband of the former Sequoya Elementary School principal after a parent and district employee accused him of threatening them on the school campus.
Judson Booth, husband of Maureen Booth, was arrested at about 3:30 p.m. after agreeing to meet with police for an interview about the incident, which occurred just after noon Oct. 22 at the school.
Booth, 58, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault, threatening and intimidating, disruption of an educational institution and disorderly conduct. He was released shortly afterward. Scottsdale police spokesman Sam Bailey said two separate police reports will be forwarded to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for review.
Bailey said Booth had come to the school to pick up his 8-year-old son on a half day when he confronted a parent sympathetic to the district at about 12:15 p.m.
“He was yelling and swearing at her, and talking very close to her face,” Bailey said.
The other possible charges stem from a confrontation Booth had shortly after the incident with Kim Cumby, the Scottsdale Unified School District’s director of human resources, who was at the school as primary investigator into five charges the governing board approved against Maureen Booth on a 4-1 vote on Oct. 2.
They include accusations she changed test scores, falsified student enrollment figures and did not properly discipline an aide who invited an 11-year-old student to lunch off campus. Booth, who remains on paid leave, is expected to ask for a hearing to defend her job by Friday.
“He held one of her hands, and when she tried to pull away, he grasped that hand also,” Bailey said. “It was more than a handshake.”
Bailey said Booth “berated” Cumby. Court records state that a secretary intervened, and the acting principal witnessed the incident.
Before his arrest Tuesday, Booth said he is now represented by a lawyer and could not comment. The Booths could not be reached Tuesday evening.
Last week, Judson Booth said the argument with the parent was an exchange of harsh words, and the parent used profanities herself.
Booth said he shook Cumby’s hand in the proper way and made a statement that he planned to make her his life’s project. He said that he never yelled, that Cumby could have easily retreated from his handshake and that he left without incident.
“I can certainly say the Scottsdale school district has put enormous stress on the Booth family,” he said last week.
A restraining order approved Oct. 23 by the Maricopa County Superior Court prohibits Judson Booth from coming to any school campus or district office, and from contacting district personnel, including Cumby.
An exception would need to be approved by a judge for him to attend his wife’s hearing, which would include district officials, said Maureen Booth’s attorney, Bill Hobson.
Hobson said he was concerned to hear that Cumby was interviewing teachers on campus the day of the incident, as he awaits details requested from the district about the charges.
“They’re over there madly trying to put together a case, and my concern is they’re engaging in witness tampering — anytime someone is hammering a witness when the other party is not there is not a good sign,” he said.
Mary Ellen Simonson, the district’s attorney in the case against Maureen Booth, said Cumby was on campus only to prepare for a hearing the former principal may request to defend her job. No charges are being sought other than those Hobson knows about, and he has had the freedom to investigate in the same manner, Simonson said.
Sequoya Elementary’s Parent Council representative, Debra Bartolomeo, said parents are concerned that teachers were replaced by substitutes during interviews last Wednesday.
“I don’t think they realize that they’re disrupting the children’s learning process,” she said.
Other Sequoya parents have met during the past few days discussing the possibility of recalling three school board members: President Shari Avianantos, clerk Sandra Zapien-Ferrero and member Karen Beckvar. The three voted to approve the accusations against Booth.
Parents are considering hiring a pollster to gauge parental concerns throughout the district and to see if parents would support a recall, parent Lisa James said. Parents also hope to raise money for Sequoya Elementary teachers if the district requires those teachers to return $600 of incentive pay each had been given based on the test scores that were later found to have been changed.
“It’s not just about Mrs. Booth, but about many things the board chooses to do,” James said. “We’d like to see what issues are out there.”