Cave City school attack results in new charges
Charges against a student accused of beating a visually handicapped student on March 5 at Cave City High School have been upgraded from Disorderly Conduct to Battery, Third Degree.
The victim's mother, Kristina Rogers, claims that the latest incident is just one of many cases of bullying her son has suffered at school since junior high. The March 5 attack has been seen by many on the internet, since it was captured on video by students in the classroom where the assault took place. The video shows a male student pummeling the boy with his fists, knocking him to the floor from his seat in an agriculture class. The video shows the boy being beaten as other students looked on, laughed, and videotaped the incident with no teacher or adult supervisor in the classroom to intervene. According to Rogers, the boy who beat her son was not even on the roll for the classroom in which the beating took place. Rogers said her son is legally blind without his glasses, and because his glasses were broken in the incident, he was forced to crawl to the agriculture department office for help.
Rogers took her son to an emergency room where he was diagnosed with a concussion from the incident.
The initial charge of disorderly conduct was filed after Cave City Resource Officer David Edwards detailed the event to Juvenile Probation Officer Kevin Dienst who, along with Edwards, had not seen the video. Dienst explained, after charges are filed, the prosecutor reviews cases and files charges he feels are appropriate for the crime. After that review, the more serious charge of Battery, Third Degree, was lodged against the alleged attacker.
The defendant has obtained the services of a Bateseville attorney, who entered a "not true" plea on the boy's behalf during an April 3 Juvenile Court session. Sharp County Juvenile Judge Kevin King set a May 8 date for the next hearing of the case. The defendant's sister in law has claimed "sexual assault" by the victim prompted the attack, but, to date, no charges have been filed against the victim to support that claim.
The victim's parents appeared at the April 4 court date and spoke with the Village Journal about the case, stating they were pleased with the prosecutor's decision to upgrade the charge the assailant faces.
Cave City Superintendent Steven Green said he could not discuss the case since the parties involved are juveniles. He said, however, "I am sickened by this and, as a district, we are trying to think what we can do extra, above and beyond the law, to prevent this type of thing from happening." Green said he could not confirm whether the student accused of the beating was a special education student, but students in classes at the school have indicated he is. Green said, in general, the state Board of Education allows only ten days per year for the suspension of students in special education programs, and it does not like for the district to use them all at one time. The school suspended the student accused in the attack for five days. Further punishment will be up to the juvenile probation office and the prosecuting attorney.
The victim's family claims that their son has been repeatedly bullied in Cave City schools for years, and the March 5 attack "was the last straw." The boy is now being home schooled, and Rogers has established a Facebook page to promote awareness of bullying which has garnered national support.
As to claims that a high suicide rate at the school may have links to bullying, Superintendent Green said, "We buried four kids in 20-months. One of the things that came out of that was, we taught the kids to lean on one another in their time of need and this is what I hope these kids would do for one another." Green also explained that the district is considering a new policy to punish anyone who encourages bullying behavior, by use of a video taping method, as an accomplice to the crime. He said, it is not the actual videotaping that would be the basis for the charge since, in some cases, video taping provides valuable evidence. The "accomplice" charge would specifically come into play if the use of a cell phone recording or other device encouraged the act of bullying.
"We have (looked at) the school board association policies, and I think the policies they have are good. We even added some in May of 2011 to help deal with these issues. We will definitely take this bad situation and see what we can do better. We always do that, see what we can do for prevention."
Green said the mother of the victim also appeared at a recent school board meeting and stressed the importance of ensuring the staff is aware of school polices, as well as enforcement and creating better ways to enforce policies when bullying occurs. "We sure intend to continue to do that, as long as we can do it in a legal way," Green said.