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Sophomore suffers jaw fractures in cafeteria attack

On Friday, Feb. 4, a sophomore at King George High School went to School Assistant Principal Duane Harrison at the start of the school day and reported that he had been threatened with “getting jumped” at school. At 2:44 p.m., approximately 7 hours later, a dispatcher with King George Sheriff’s Office called 911 to request aid and transportation to the emergency room for the sophomore who was later diagnosed to be suffering from two fractures to his bottom jawbone and one fracture to his top jawbone.
What happened in between the time the sophomore requested assistance from Harrison and the time the sophomore was treated for

his injuries at the emergency room appears to be a series of school personnel failures — failure to follow school policies, failure to take immediate and appropriate action on a reported student-to-student threat, and failure to promptly diagnose a serious injury.
After reporting the threat to Harrison, the sophomore participated in regularly scheduled classes and lunch. As the change-of-class bell rang and the sophomore prepared to leave the cafeteria, he was attacked, thrown to the floor and badly beaten, allegedly by at least three students. Bloodied and shaken, the sophomore was taken to the school nurse, who cleaned up the blood and instructed the sophomore to go to then-Interim Principal Cliff Conway’s office where he was instructed to write a report on the incident. The sophomore and his mother were also informed that he was being placed on a 10-day suspension status for participating in a fight.
After leaving the school the sophomore and his mother drove to the King George Sheriff’s Office and requested to speak to an intake officer. At 2:44 p.m. the front desk dispatcher, upon seeing the injuries the sophomore had sustained, immediately identified the serious nature of the injuries and called 911 to request medical assistance. The mother declined the ambulance transport, and drove her son to the emergency room. The emergency room staff diagnosed the three jaw fractures and provided medical treatment.
According to Student Conduct Policy Guidelines issued by the Virginia Department of Education in 2009:  “Threats to kill or to do bodily harm are specifically prohibited by § 18.2-60. of the Code of Virginia. The prohibition includes threats to any person or persons “(i) on the grounds or premises of any elementary, middle or secondary school property, (ii) at any elementary, middle or secondary school-sponsored event or (iii) on a school bus.”
Further, according to a Guidance Letter released by the Virginia Department of Education on Oct. 26, 2010, Office of Civil Rights Office of the Assistant Secretary, “A school is responsible for addressing harassment incidents about which it knows or reasonably should have known.” The guidance letter continues and reports that “When responding to harassment, a school must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred.” The guidance letter concludes stating “Appropriate steps to end harassment may include separating the accused harasser and the target, providing counseling for the target and/or harasser, or taking disciplinary action against the harasser. These steps should not penalize the student who was harassed.”
Further, according to King George School Board Policy JFCEA, Revised Sept. 28, 2005, “Supervision of Students: Students shall be under reasonable supervision of a school employee during the time the students are under the jurisdiction of the School Board.”
It appears as though the initial failure of school personnel was in the failure to follow school policy in assessing risk after learning of a threat to a student.  A second failure of school personnel was to take immediate and appropriate action as called for by VA DOE guidance noted above.  A third failure of school personnel falls under the purview of the school nurse who failed to recognize serious injuries and recommend immediate medical treatment.  
The School Resource Officer, Deputy Butch Norris, was absent due to illness Feb 4.  Knowing that there was a threat to “jump” the sophomore, and with the absence of Norris, school administrators also had the option of advising the KG Sheriff’s Office of the potential for violence at the school that day.
Conway did, however, after a review of a videotape showing the altercation in the cafeteria, lift the 10-day suspension initially imposed on the sophomore.  
To put reported student offenses into perspective, a review of incidents reported in 2009/2010 at KGHS show 12 offenses against students; 34 offenses against persons; 18 alcohol, tobacco and drug offenses; 20 property offenses; 348 incidences of disorderly or disruptive behavior; and 474 technology offenses. KGHS reported a population of 1,264 students during 2009-2010.  
As of Feb. 12, according to King George Sheriff Steve Dempsey, “One young man has been charged with felonious assault. The matter is under investigation and further interviews are being conducted by the School Resource Officer.” Felonious assault, also called malicious wounding, under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-51, is punishable as a Class 3 felony.
Numerous phone calls to Cliff Conway, who was appointed as permanent Principal of the High School by the KG School Board on Feb. 14 and Candace Brown, current School Superintendent, were not returned.

Kathy Flanagan

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