A Kenosha girl and her mother want Kenosha Unified to enforce stricter punishment in handling bullying after her daughter was battered by another student in a science class last month.
On Oct. 23, Paige Powers, 14, was in a science lab at Indian Trail High School and Academy when another girl twice her size came up to her from behind, called her a derogatory name and repeatedly punched her in the face and head, according to her mother Andrea Powers, in an interview Tuesday night with the Kenosha News.
The impact of the initial blow caused Paige to fall to the ground and the other girl continued to punch her in the head several times. A teacher intervened, removing the larger girl and preventing further injury, she said.
According to her mother, Paige had a bloody nose and the class had to be moved out of the room while custodial staff cleaned up Paige’s blood.
“The girl was standing up, and Paige was sitting down and she snuck up behind her and said, ‘You bitch’ and then smacked her in the face,” she said.
“The whole class was in there. Students and their teacher witnessed it. This teacher is my hero because she ran across that classroom and removed her off of my child.”
Paige ended up with a concussion that has since healed, but the emotional scars have not. She has since transferred to Central High School in Paddock Lake, her mother said.
“They’ve been so welcoming there, and they’ve really helped with the transition so much since they know about the situation,” said Powers, who posted on Facebook about her daughter’s ordeal.
Friends a brief time
Before the attack, Paige had been friends with the girl for a short time when they’d met in band last school year while attending nearby Mahone Middle School. The girl was new to the school, having moved to Kenosha from out of state.
But, as she began to get to know her, Powers said her daughter decided she didn’t want to continue to associate with the girl.
Summer came and went, and while her mother tried to assure her daughter she probably wouldn’t run into her at Kenosha Unified’s largest high school, as it turned out, they ended up having many of the same classes together.
When Paige told the girl she no longer wanted to be friends, the bullying began. What started as verbal taunting escalated to the damaging of her daughter’s personal belongings and then threats made against her on social media.
Powers said she spoke with school administration upon hearing that the girl was threatening physical harm toward her daughter. Both were scared, she said.
Powers said school staff spoke to the girl and had her sign an “anti-bullying contract.” She said the dean told her that the girl would leave Paige alone and the bullying would cease.
“He felt like there was really no threat,” she said.
The girl who assaulted Paige was suspended from school five days.
On the day of the girl’s return to school, Powers kept Paige out of school that day. She learned later that the girl had gone to a lunch table, with no supervision, to where Paige and her friends would gather and asked for her.
“I contacted the dean and asked, ‘Why is she out? Why isn’t she supervised?’ Something would’ve happened again if Paige would’ve been sitting at that table,” she said.
The dean, she said, chalked it up to a breakdown in communication.
Tanya Ruder, Unified’s spokeswoman, said the district is aware of the incident and that it is being investigated.
Powers said she is frustrated because the system seems to have protected the alleged assailant while her daughter has continued to suffer from the trauma of the attack.
Powers said she filed a police report the day of the attack in order to press charges. When it came time for the girl to be sentenced, she learned it would not be done in a court setting and she could not be present to represent her child.
She said that despite the girl reportedly having had similar charges against her in New Jersey, they could not be used against her to establish a trend of violent behavior.
The school would not expel the girl because it was her first offense, which was ultimately the ruling by the district’s behavioral committee, she said.
“Words cannot describe how disappointed we are that KUSD will allow this student to return to ITA,” Powers wrote in a Facebook post, which has garnered more than 1,000 reactions and been shared just as many times. Almost all who have responded have been supportive.
Powers questioned what had happened to “zero tolerance to bullying” and added that the district’s policy was “a joke.”
Powers said the girl should have been expelled, which is an option in the district’s anti-bullying/ harassment/hate policy.
“When you attack someone like that, that’s my main source of where my anger is coming from,” she said. “She had the office staff completely convinced that she was not going to do anything (to Paige), and an hour later, she did.”
Trying to move on
Paige, an honor student, who plays two instruments and participates on a traveling volleyball team, is trying to move on from the attack.
“Paige wants to move on and be done with it. She would like to see this girl have a consequence, and not just a five-day, out-of-school suspension. I think she should be held accountable,” she said.
Powers, a former Kenosha Unified teacher, said she is thankful for the support she’s received from parents, teachers and others who’ve contacted her.
“I’ve seen a big shift in past 10 years with how bullying and harassment is being handled, and it’s not good,” she said. “Teachers are crying for help. ... Families, they want to see stricter policies.”
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