Bus beating victim's mom wants stronger charges filed
Published: Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 11:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 11:55 p.m.
The mother of the girl who was beaten by schoolmates during a Jan. 6 bus ride says the criminal charges against the seven accused attackers are not strong enough.
The five girls accused of being involved in the beating were each charged by the State Attorney's Office with one count of battery and disorderly conduct. Two boys were also charged — one with assault and disorderly conduct, the other only with disorderly conduct. The cases are pending.
All charges are misdemeanors, even though the defendants were arrested on a stronger charge: felony battery.
"They dropped the charges from felonies to misdemeanors — for what?" asked the girl's mother, whose name is withheld to avoid identifying the child. "I want the people to understand this is severe bullying. They think they're the big bad kids on the bus. It's not fair."
Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway said his office decided that the extent of the injuries the victim suffered were not sufficient to warrant felony battery charges, which require that great bodily harm be determined.
The five girls face up to a year in juvenile detention or a year of probation on the battery charge and two days in juvenile detention or six months of probation on the disorderly conduct charge.
The boys charged with assault and disorderly conduct would also face two days in juvenile detention or six months of probation.
The Star-Banner is not naming the defendants because of their ages. They range in age from 12 to 15. The victim is 13.
The victim's mother said she intends to sue the School District but has had trouble finding a lawyer to bring the case. She just wants justice for her daughter, she said.
As a result of the beating, the victim suffered a concussion, neck and back injuries, and has had seizures. Prior to that, she had never suffered a seizure.
"She ended up passing out cold and not remembering who she was," the mom said. "She didn't remember anybody. It's scary."
She said her daughter awakes screaming in the middle of the night because of nightmares and is traumatized. Even though the victim has been back to school and is in better physical shape now, she's still afraid.
"My daughter doesn't like to go outside anymore, and if she does go outside, she's petrified," the mom said.
The victim and the accused all attended Liberty Middle School. The defendants have not been back in school since the beating; they face permanent expulsion from the district, pending School Board approval.
The State Attorney's Office released a video of the beating last week, and many people who viewed it were outraged. When the victim's mother watched it, she wept.
"When you're sitting here watching your child get beat, you can't do much but cry," she said.
She said her daughter told her she was scared for her life and thought she was going to die — all because she tried to sit in an "off-limits" part of the bus.
On that day, her daughter, who is half Hispanic and half white, tried to sit in the back of the bus, but was told by children sitting in that area, all of whom are black, to sit on the floor.
The mother said words were exchanged and one of the children threw a shoe at her daughter, but missed and hit her other daughter in the back of the head.
Another child on the bus threw the shoe to the back of the bus and after that, it was absolute pandemonium.
School District officials and the State Attorney's Office have all said the beating was not racially motivated.
According to School District policy, boys should sit on one side of the bus and girls on the other, said Kevin Christian, a spokesman for the Marion County School District.
"We don't segregate by race or discriminate by race — that does not enter the picture," he said.
While back at school, the victim's mother said her daughter ignores threatening messages from friends of the students who have been charged. She said they have threatened to beat her again, and the girl doesn't want to be in school.
"How is the school going to protect her now?" the mother asked.
Contact Vishal Persaud at 867-4065, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @vishalpersaud.