Brutality on the bus
I imagine you've probably heard about this by now:
The [Belleville, Illinois] School Board on Monday handed out the harshest punishment allowed to two students accused of violent attacks on another boy on a school bus last week, saying it was sending a message by expelling the two boys for the rest of this year and all of next.
Board President Curt Highsmith said the kind of violence caught on the school bus' surveillance camera and shown widely on TV and the Internet has "never been tolerated and never will be tolerated" in the Belleville Township High School District.
The video taken a week earlier by a camera on the bus showed a 17-year-old Belleville West High School student get on the bus and look for an open seat. He took a seat next to another teen, who after a few moments attacked the victim, punching him in the head several times. At one point, the attacker held the victim by the neck with one hand while he punched his face with the other.
A few minutes after that beating ended, another student argued with the victim and then punched him in the face several times. Each time, other students intervened in an effort to stop the attacks.
The victim was treated by a school nurse after the beatings and later was released to his mother.
Police initially said the attacks may have been motivated by race but later backtracked, saying it appeared to be a case of bullying, not racial animosity. The victim is white, his two attackers are black.
Most of the 50 people attending Monday's School Board meeting appeared to support the expulsions, which school officials said were the harshest penalties allowed by law.
Parent Angie Brown said she backed the board's decision but wanted to make sure the expelled boys still attend school somewhere.
"Everybody deserves an education," she said.
But Tami Graham said she was more concerned about the safety of students who follow the rules than about the schooling of boys expelled for the attacks.
"I don't care about their education," she said.
Some were unhappy about the way video footage of the attack thrust Belleville briefly into the national spotlight. Parent Alicia Bradley said she was angry that the video had been released and that so many people had made hateful posts on blogs and websites. She said it was a poor representation of Belleville and the school.
Some speakers said the incident made them more concerned about bus overcrowding and gang issues at the school.
Several students have been suspended for cheering on the attacks or laughing as they took place. Tabasha Holloman, the mother of one of those students, said her son was in the wrong but questioned whether the district was imposing punishments fairly.
"That's the way teenagers react to fights," she said.
She said her son had been the victim of an attack at a football game on Sept. 4 and that school authorities had not done anything about it. She said problems at the school go beyond what was seen on the school bus video.
Six Belleville police officers were stationed at the meeting but were not needed to keep order.
Both of the accused attackers were charged with felony aggravated battery on Friday. Illinois law shields the names of juveniles charged with crimes because they are minors.
The first boy, a 14-year-old, pleaded not guilty Monday at a detention hearing before St. Clair County Judge Walter Brandon.
"This is shocking in its violence and its brutality," said William Clay, an assistant state's attorney.
Clay said the victim didn't provoke the attack and had simply been looking for a place to sit on the bus. He said the first attacker "clearly lost control that day."
Prosecutors argued for holding the teen until trial, but Brandon released him to his father, a pastor. The teen will be under 24-hour curfew and must get a court order if he wants to leave his father's home for anything other than attending school.
John Hipskind, the teenager's public defender, said he has no prior juvenile delinquency cases, attended school regularly and made good grades before the attack.
The other teen, a 15-year-old who is accused of beating the victim later in the bus ride, turned himself in to authorities on Monday. He did not appear before a judge.
Clay said that teen flashed apparent gang signs after the beating.
Here is an edited version of the video from the school bus from the CBS Morning News:
The 15-year-old was placed under 24 hour house arrest after a hearing before a juvenile judge today. He will not be allowed out of his house without a court order, and is being held in custody until his father, who is a minister, gets a land line so that his monitor will work.
The bus driver, after an investigation, has been removed from that route.
There are links to related stories here, and here.
The full, unedited video, which lasted 13 minutes, is here.
I am disgusted with kids who think this is funny. I am disgusted that the second attack was not prevented, much less the first. It seems these kids had no fear of consequences. I am disgusted with the parent who said that her child was wrong for laughing but excused that behavior at the same time, because the laughter helped prolong the first attack and provoke the second attack. I am disgusted with the parent (who is a minister) of the fourteen-year-old attacker who talked about how his family's life was harmed by the publicity and reaction, when he should be wondering why his child felt free to attack someone in such a vicious manner.
God help us.
Labels: school violence