State of Utah, in the interest of W.E.M., a person under eighteen years of age. W.E.M., Appellant,
State of Utah, Appellee.
District Juvenile Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable
Mark W. May No. 1108641
C. Rust, Attorney for Appellant
D. Reyes and William M. Hains, Attorneys for Appellee
Kate A. Toomey authored this Opinion, in which Judges Stephen
L. Roth and Michele M. Christiansen concurred.
W.E.M. appeals his adjudication for assault against a school
employee, a class A misdemeanor if committed by an adult.
See Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-102.3 (LexisNexis
2012). We vacate the juvenile court's adjudication and
remand with a direction to enter an adjudication for the
lesser included offense of simple assault.
W.E.M. often arrived early to his junior high school. To pass
the time before class began, W.E.M. and his friends usually
walked the halls or sat and talked with one another, and
sometimes they engaged in horseplay. The friends had
developed a "bumping game, " in which one friend
bumped into or pushed another friend, causing the person
being bumped in turn to bump into other people passing by.
W.E.M.'s friend, K.J., testified that the game involved
bumping into random people, but W.E.M. said the game was only
among those in their group of friends.
One morning in December 2014, W.E.M. was walking the crowded
hallways with K.J. and another friend. As they walked down
the hall, K.J. bumped W.E.M. several different times, pushing
him into passersby. An assistant principal (Principal), who
was patrolling the hallways with a teacher, walked down the
hall toward W.E.M. and K.J. As Principal passed them, K.J.
pushed W.E.M., and W.E.M., in one fluid motion, lowered his
shoulder and struck Principal. This threw her off balance,
and she felt pain in her arm, "like . . . when someone
hits your arm hard." Principal saw W.E.M. run into her,
though she did not see K.J. After the incident she looked
behind her "to make sure [she] knew who did [it, ] and
saw W.E.M." When she reported the encounter she
characterized it as a "shoulder check."
Although W.E.M. knew Principal and had interacted with her in
her role as an administrator, he testified that he did not
see her before he struck her and that after the impact he
"turned around to see who it was." K.J. also
testified that he did not see Principal before he pushed
W.E.M. in her direction.
The State sought to adjudicate W.E.M. delinquent for assault
against a school employee. At a bench trial, the juvenile
court made the following findings:
[Principal] was an assistant principal at [the junior high
school]. W.E.M. knew [Principal] was a school employee and
had had dealings with her in the past in that capacity.
W.E.M. engaged in what I will call the bumping game with his
friends on more than one occasion. W.E.M. knew that the
bumping game could result in someone getting hurt.
[One day in December], W.E.M. and his friends were . . .
playing the bumping game at the [junior high school]. At
least three incidents of the bumping game occurred that
morning, one before the incident involving [Principal], the
incident involving [Principal] and the one after the incident
with [Principal]. And while playing the bumping game W.E.M.
dipped his shoulder and struck [Principal]. The force of the
impact knocked her off balance. She felt as if she had been
hit hard and [it] caused her bodily pain.
[One of the] requirements for assault against a school
employee is that [a person must assault] a public employee.
So we have to look at what assault is. The definition of
assault is an act committed . . . with unlawful force or
violence that causes bodily injury to another or creates a
substantial risk of bodily injury and bodily injury is
defined as pain. So there was an assault [on] an employee.
W.E.M. again had knowledge that the individual was an
employee. The employee was acting in the scope of her
authority as she's testified and I'll find also that
she was walking up and down the halls as was one of her
normal obligations as an assistant principal.
on these findings, the juvenile court adjudicated W.E.M.
delinquent for this offense. ...