DENTON — Parents say their Denton Elementary first-grader was choked and repeatedly punched in a school bathroom by an older student on Sept. 8.
Cheyanne Riddle said she was not notified by school officials and did not learn about the incident until her 6-year-old old son came home from school with bruises and scratches on his neck. She said he told her another boy, who was taller and older, attacked him in the bathroom and choked and punched him until he felt he would vomit. He didn’t know the other boy’s name. Other students in the bathroom reportedly told the older child to leave Riddle’s son alone, she said.
Riddle said her son reported the incident to his teacher, Deborah White, but she received no phone call from the school.
Jenna Hubbard, the child’s stepmother, said she saw the scratches, handprint and bruises on his neck. He told her he was washing his hands when the older child came into the bathroom, he said hi, and the boy attacked him.
Hubbard said she called and got the principal, Susan McCandless, on the phone. She said McCandless told her she had just been informed about the incident at the end of the day. When she asked why no one (none of the parents) was notified, Hubbard said McCandless told her she didn’t think it was a big deal.
When Hubbard pressed the issue, saying something needed to be done, she said McCandless “got rude” and told Hubbard she had other, bigger issues to deal with.
Riddle’s son begged not to be sent back to school because he was afraid of being attacked again, both moms said. They kept him out of school for the rest of last week because they didn’t feel it was safe to send him back.
Riddle said she called the Caroline County Board of Education and Child Protective Services about the incident on Thursday. The board of education responded saying they would “coach” the principal and teacher on safety procedures and set up a safety plan for the first-grader, Hubbard said.
Riddle also posted photos of her son’s injuries and an account of what happened on social media.
Riddle, Hubbard and the child’s father went in to meet with school officials about the matter on Monday, Sept. 13. They said they met with the principal, vice principal and school counselor.
Hubbard said the principal told them she was embarrassed to see the story on social media.
“She was more worried about her and the staff being embarrassed than about our child’s safety,” Hubbard said.
They have filed a complaint with the school’s resource officer, but were told the school must first conduct its own investigation. Riddle said she was also told by McCandless, there were no cameras near the bathroom and then told later there were cameras.
On Monday, Riddle agreed to send her child back to school, and they switched his classroom to another teacher and offered an opportunity for him to meet with the school counselor, she said.
Riddle said collectively the parents are unhappy with how the school has handled the situation. She believes they should have been told about the incident when it happened and not have to learn about it from her child.
When asked for a statement on the incident, Caroline County Public Schools information officer Sandi Barry responded, “Federal privacy laws prohibit us from sharing specific information about students. However, any instance of a physical altercation is investigated by school administration and, if necessary, law enforcement, and appropriate action is taken in accordance with the student discipline policy. The health and safety of our students and staff remain our highest priority.”
On Tuesday, Lt. Donald Baker at the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office said his office had not received an official complaint about the incident from the school resource officer.