The last thing Tameka Phillips was expecting when she met with Johnson Middle School officials on May 5 was tickets to the circus. She was there to discuss allegations that Principal Pamela Ransome had scuffled with Phillips’ 11-year-old daughter Tiyah the day before, causing her to hit her head against a wall.

But after a meeting in which school administrators asked her not to go to the press and to let them handle the matter internally, assistant principal Phillip Morgan offered her tickets to the UniverSoul Circus, which was in the Washington area earlier this month. Phillips took the tickets, but was left wondering if they were some sort of inducement to keep quiet about the matter.

Johnson officials did not respond to a request for comment. D.C. schools spokeswoman Safiya Simmons said the tickets were in no way meant to hush the family.

“The offer was a part of a separate conversation and definitely not an effort to quiet anyone,” Simmons said in a statement. “Many Johnson students were awarded tickets the same day as part of a school-wide program.”