By Jackee Coe, The Republic | azcentral.com
Two Apache Junction High School students were disciplined after school officials investigated allegations they had bullied a junior high student on a school bus, officials said.
A Cactus Canyon Junior High student reported to the school's assistant principal on the morning of March 6 that two high school students previously had burned him while riding on a school bus to the Apache Junction Boys and Girls Club, Apache Junction Unified School District spokesman Brian Killgore said.
The principal investigated the incident and by the afternoon had identified the two high school students who allegedly used lighters to heat up erasers and then touch the 13-year-old student on the arms and neck, he said. They were reported to the Apache Junction Police Department.
One student was disciplined on March 7 and the other was disciplined on March 8 because he didn't attend school the day before, Killgore said. He declined to say what the discipline was, citing the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The victim told The Republic Wednesday that the incidents started in February and continued for several weeks. He said he was scared to report it because the high school students threatened to beat him up if he did. The Republic does not name victims of crime.
The boy's mother, who The Republic is also not naming, said they could tell something was happening because his behavior changed "drastically" as he began lashing out at his parents and sister and disrespecting everyone. After several days of trying to get him to tell them what was wrong, he finally told them about the bullying on the school bus.
The boy had scars on his arm and the back of his neck from where he said the high school students burned him with the erasers. He also had a bruise on his left cheek from where he said he was punched multiple times by an 8th-grade student who jumped him Monday at the bus stop in retaliation for reporting the other students.
"As a mother, I'm heartbroken, I'm sad. I'm so angry that something like this could happen to my child," she said. "And if it happened to him, how many other children in that school or that school district is it happening to also that haven't come forward or are too scared to come forward?"
The boy's parents reported the burning incidents to the Apache Junction Police Department on March 5, who conducted an investigation and submitted the case to the Pinal County Attorney's Office's juvenile division, Interim Police Chief Thomas Kelly said. The attorney's office will determine whether to file charges against the juveniles.
Another police report shows the boy was assaulted Monday at a bus stop by another 13-year-old student, but investigators were unable to find a connection to the previous incidents, Kelly said. The teen, who punched the boy in the face, was arrested and the Police Department submitted an assault charge to the county attorney's office.
The mother said bullying has "gotten out of control," and all adults - whether parents, school officials, bus drivers, neighbors or just passersby - need to stand up against bullying.
"No parent wants their child to be harmed and it's hard enough for us to try and look out for them from the predators and other incidents that can happen on the streets nowadays," she said. "Now we have to watch for other juveniles to harm our children physically and emotionally? It just has to stop. The bullying has to stop."
The Republic | azcentral.com