War of words at Caesar Rodney school board meeting

WYOMING — Fireworks erupted at a meeting of the Caesar Rodney School Board Tuesday evening involving the case of a high school student allegedly beaten and continually harassed by another student.

An advocate for a student and his family engaged in a heated argument with a member of the school board, with sharp criticism thrown between the two sides and each accusing the other of lying.

At issue is an Oct. 3 fight and how the school district has responded, including whether it has done enough to keep the two students involved separate from one another.

A short cell phone video captured in the Caesar Rodney High School cafeteria shows a 14-year-old student sitting on the ground being punched by a 15-year-old standing over him. A school nurse, according to her written report, determined the 14-year-old boy suffered a swollen right eye and a bump in the back of his head as a result of the fight and recommended the family see a doctor.

The 15-year-old was charged with misdemeanor offensive touching.
According to Diane Eastburn, an advocate for the victim’s family, the 14-year-old has been harassed several times since the incident.

“He wants to be in that building, he wants to make friends and what does he get? Threatened every time he goes into the cafeteria because that guy reappears,” she told the district’s board of education.

Although the board stated before the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting that members would not respond, board member P. Scott Wilson shot back at Ms. Eastburn when she finished speaking.

The claims that contact has occurred since, Mr. Wilson said, are “patently untrue.”
“You’re here to stir up trouble,” he said of Ms. Eastburn, who responded with an incredulous laugh.

After her discussion before the board, Ms. Eastburn said there has been no physical contact between the two students since the Oct. 3 fight but the older student has tried to intimidate the other boy. The 15-year-old, she said, has walked up behind the alleged victim several times and stared him down in the hallway at one point.

The 14-year-old wants to attend school as normal, and if the harassment continues, the other boy should be temporarily removed from the school, Ms. Eastburn said.

Mr. Wilson noted he could not by law discuss student discipline.

The two adults traded barbs for several minutes, with the 14-year-old chiming in at one point, before board President Jessica Marelli ended the discussion.

Currently, whether harassment has occurred and the district has done enough to prevent another incident is a case of one person’s word against another’s.

“The children are in a safe environment,” Mr. Wilson said. “Things happened in school, there’s 2,000 kids.”
Ms. Eastburn and the student’s family disagree.

“If we’re going to ignore issues that happen in schools, underreport or don’t report or put off dealing with, eventually you’re going to have a kid in your district that’s dead,” Ms. Eastburn claimed.

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