Parents of student punched in school say CR district botched response

Special needs student advocate Diane Eastburn reads a statement in front of Caesar Rodney School District headquarters Monday morning, flanked by Rose and Robert Boyles. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

WYOMING — A couple continues to question response to an Oct. 3 incident when their special needs son required medical attention after being punched multiple times in the head by another student.

Rose and Robert Boyles stood in front of Caesar Rodney School District headquarters Monday morning and provided police and medical reports they claim show how their son’s case has been mishandled and downplayed since the start.

A Delaware State Police detective’s initial crime report indicated their son wasn’t injured during the confrontation.

However, the couple provided a Caesar Rodney High nurse’s evaluation made immediately afterward indicating the 14-year-old boy suffered a swollen right eye and a bump in the back of his head, requiring an ice pack.

The nurse advised the family of what she checked as an injury and the need to seek further attention, the medical referral form indicated.

On Oct. 5, a private walk-in clinic doctor diagnosed facial trauma and no signs of concussion.

The doctor ordered the student back to school on Oct. 6, recommending he not do homework. A return to school with no restrictions was established for Oct. 9.

The family believes the district has not followed its pledge to keep their son away from his alleged attacker in school since then. Several interactions between the boys have taken place.

“We are at an impasse regarding just how safe this student or any student is in this building,” said Diane Eastburn, a special needs advocate for the Boyles family. She said she’s worked with 108 families in the past 20 years plus.

“Considering we could not get one week before their son was feeling unsafe because of unwanted contact from the other student,” she added.

The Boyles said their son hasn’t been harassed by other students at the school since his return.

A 15-year-old student was charged with misdemeanor offensive touching in connection with the incident in the cafeteria.

The incident, which took place about 12:35 p.m. in the school cafeteria, was captured on a cell phone and the 10-second video was posted onto social media.

“(Defendant) attacked a student in the cafeteria by punching him in the head multiple times,” the trooper wrote in the report’s incident overview.

While the district announced publicly that two students were suspended and could face expulsion and/or criminal charges for a recent unrelated racially-charged online message involving the school’s mascot, it cited policy when declining comment on any specific discipline from the alleged offensive touching incident.

“The School District does not comment on the discipline of individual students nor does it discuss a student’s status regarding special education or mental health needs and services,” CR Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald said in an e-mailed statement Monday.

Dr. Fitzgerald continued to decline further comment on Monday when asked for an interview.

A first request regarding the mascot and confrontation issues was made on Oct. 6.

More specifics sought

In a Facebook post Friday the district generally disputed alleged facts reported by the family to the Delaware State News.

But district officials offered no details Monday when asked by a reporter to provide what it believed were specific untrue claims.

Ms. Eastburn described the CR Facebook post as containing “false accusations and innuendo.”

“There is no information that we’ve provided that is untrue or twisted to go in another direction (and falsely portray the issues),” she said.

The district cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and would not respond to followup questioning after the Boyles’ family appearance in front of its headquarters.

“We understand that this has created a situation in which the State News has depended on one source for their stories on a situation that occurred in the Caesar Rodney High School cafeteria,“ the district said in a statement Monday.

On Oct. 6, the district acknowledged the cafeteria incident and noted that an arrest was made and disciplinary action was taken.

“Fights of this nature, while rare are unacceptable and are not tolerated in Caesar Rodney,” the statement read.

“The District will continue to work hard to insure the safety of our students.”

The district did provide a general response Monday when asked about the supposed incident and its aftermath.

“The Caesar Rodney School District is committed to fostering a safe learning environment for all our students, but we do acknowledge that students can exhibit poor judgment with both words and deeds,” Dr. Fitzgerald said.

“Should that occur, appropriate discipline based on the student code of conduct and School Board policy is applied. It is also district practice to notify law enforcement.

“We believe in our students and we continue to be dedicated to providing them with the best public education in Delaware.”

Charge questioned

Reading from a statement Monday, Ms. Eastburn and the Boyles’ criticized a police officer’s alleged response to the incident, including a first report that “it was a mutually combative matter.”

The family believes the video shows otherwise and wonders why a more serious charge wasn’t filed based on the injuries reportedly suffered.

“It is my opinion that this officer has clouded his job — he is not an administrator, he is a law enforcement officer. He took an oath to uphold the laws of our state — not diminishing crimes for whatever reason. …”

Mrs. Boyles said she didn’t become aware of the video until Oct 5 when notified by another parent who said her daughter was disturbed by it.

That parent plans to join the family and Ms. Eastburn at tonight’s 6 p.m. CR Board of Education meeting at W.B. Simpson Elementary School.

Ms. Eastburn believes more supportive attention should be paid in general to children with special needs in a school system.

“I urge every person who hears or reads this to attend the board of education meeting,” Ms. Eastburn said. “Make it known this is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The two students involved had a previously tense relationship and the 14-year-old had been given an in-school suspension for calling the other boy a profane name, his family said.

The in-school suspension was later rescinded by the district, according to the Boyles.

The Boyles family said their son had a 504 plan in place that provides accommodations, modifications and other services that creates a stronger opportunity to attend class more successfully.

He had a plan as an eighth-grader last year, his family said, and he’s maintained an A and B average since.

Now, however, the boy told his parents he will not attend homecoming activities due to a fear for his safety.

Any friend or friends with him could potentially be drawn into a dangerous situation, Mr. and Mrs. Boyles said.

“Nobody should have to go to school in fear,” Mrs. Boyles said. “It’s been really hard on him. He tries to stay focused in school …”

The district earlier declined to answer general questions on policies for staff members and how they can respond to in-school confrontations.

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