School officials 
failed twice in Fruita

The severe beating of a 15-year-old girl at Fruita 8-9 School last Friday is disturbing in a number of ways, but mostly because of what it says about how staff at the school respond to bullying.

Based on a 30-second video of Friday’s attack and statements of Carrie Thrall, the victim’s mother, it appears school officials failed twice in protecting her daughter, Lexi.

The first failure occurred after Lexi reported to school officials seeing the girl who would allegedly later attack her, snorting an unknown substance with a male student in a bathroom. Shortly after the report was made, Carrie Thrall said, the girl whom Lexi reported began making threats to Lexi. Thrall said those threats were reported several times to school officials, but administrators took no action.

We are aware that School District 51 officials dispute some of what Thrall has said, but so far, they have offered nothing concrete to contradict her statements.

The school’s second failure came during the attack itself. As mentioned, the video shot by a student lasts about 30 seconds. But the attack on Lexi obviously began before the video started, and it’s not clear whether it ends when the video stops. During all that time, no adult comes to Lexi’s rescue — no teacher, administrator, custodian or kitchen worker.

In fact, the only one who intercedes on Lexi’s behalf before the final seconds of the video is Lexi’s 14-year-old sister. To add insult to very real injury suffered by the Thrall family, the sister was suspended for three days for fighting.

There were lengthy discussions in The Daily Sentinel newsroom about whether to post on the video of the attack and publish a link to it in Paul Shockley’s Tuesday story about the beating. In the end, we decided it was important to post the video for two reasons: First, it shows the severity of the attack. Second, it gives viewers a sense of how long it continued without any adult intercession. Thirty seconds looks brief when it’s written. It seems much longer as you watch a youth being repeatedly pummeled.

We’re glad the Fruita Police Department is pursuing juvenile assault charges against Lexi’s attacker and District 51 is reviewing how the Fruita staff responded.

We are sensitive to the fact that we ask a lot of our schools these days. But protecting students on school grounds from other students has got to be a top priority. Learning is next to impossible if a youngster is in fear for his or her life. Reports of violent threats at schools should prompt immediate reaction in the era of Columbine and Newtown.

District 51 officials are circling the wagons now, refusing to discuss much about the incident publicly. They are essentially telling the community, “We can’t say what occurred, but trust us, we’re doing everything necessary to protect your kids.”

Carrie Thrall doesn’t believe that anymore. We suspect a lot of other parents also have their doubts.

The district owes this community a full accounting of what occurred — without names, if need be ­— and an explanation of what will be done to prevent similar incidents in the future.


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