Fed up!

Published 2:08 pm Monday, November 19, 2018

WINDSOR – David Byrum says he’s had enough and the time has come to take action.

The father of a sixth grade student at Bertie Middle School (BMS) is attempting to gain information from school officials about an alleged lack of action after his son was assaulted in gym class at BMS on Oct. 19.

“My son was hit in the face multiple times resulting in an injury that will require corrective surgery and may have long term effects,” said Byrum in a letter sent to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

In regards to the Oct. 19 incident, Byrum alleges that two teachers were present, “but neither claims to have witnessed it,” he stated.

Byrum added that his son reported the assault to his teacher.

“The teacher sent him to the restroom for tissue and told him he would take him to the office at the end of class,” Byrum alleged. “At the end of class the teacher sent him to his next class and told him he would handle it.

“The incident was never reported to anyone and no medical attention was sought at the school,” Byrum continued in his claim. “We the parents were never notified and only discovered what had happened when our son got off the bus.”

He added that the extent of his son’s injuries, a broken nose and deviated septum, were discovered that evening after seeking medical treatment at a hospital emergency room.

“I was shown video footage of the entire event, including my son telling the teacher,” Byrum said. “The school has still offered no satisfactory explanation or attempts to provide any kind of resolution or support for our family.”

Byrum further alleges that the Oct. 19 incident wasn’t the first time his son was assaulted. He claims another incident occurred in early October in the boys bathroom and a third one later in the month when he son was pushed down from behind as he made his way to the school bus after classes had ended.

Byrum supplied this newspaper with a copy of a letter, written on a Bertie County Schools (BCS) letterhead, that he received after meeting with school officials on Nov. 2.

“As we discussed at the meeting, we regret that you were not called immediately after your son was injured in gym class on Oct. 19,” as stated in the letter, which was sent Nov. 5 by Glen Buck, BCS Executive Director of Operations and Human Resources, and Danny Perry, BCS Coordinator of Safety and Security.

“The injury was not reported to the school administration or [school] nurse as the school handbook states it should have been,” the letter continued. “We are taking steps to ensure that any and all student injuries are immediately reported and that parents are contacted as soon as possible after any student accident or injury.”

The letter further stated, “We are working on ways to improve our student services with our staff.”

It also thanked Byrum for presenting his ideas (at the Nov. 2 meeting) to make students feel safer while in school.

“We will give consideration to them (Byrum’s ideas) and we will implement steps to work on school safety to benefit all our students,” the letter said.

The News-Herald followed up on the concerns shared by Byrum by posing several questions in an email sent to Bertie County Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine Edmonds. Six of the eight questions posed, to include the public release of the names of the teachers present in the gym at the time of the Oct. 19 incident and if any type of disciplinary action was taken against them, were answered by means of citing federal and state privacy laws that protected the release of such information.

In answering a question, the school system did confirm they made the family aware of potentially applicable no fault medical expense coverage that that BCS has through the North Carolina School Boards Trust.

“It is an optional medical expense program through which families can submit claims for coverage of eligible medical expenses up to $2,500. It does not require a release and is not a settlement,” said Buck.

At the conclusion of the e-mail response from Bertie County Schools, Buck stated, “Bertie County Schools is taking student safety very seriously in many different ways. The recent Regional Discussion Event that centered on School Safety was mandatory for all Bertie County Schools staff. Sessions included topics such as bullying and emotional health as well as physical safety concerns. Other recent initiatives in Bertie County Schools include the development of a plan of action with middle school and high school staff to address bullying in the schools, plans for additional safety drills of various types at the schools, plans to establish school-level and district-level bullying committees to investigate reports, and the initial planning of a student/community event to educate students, parents, and other stakeholders on the importance of school safety, the harmful effects of bullying, and the ways in which students, staff and parents can spot warning signs and report them to school officials. We will continue to take the safety of our students very seriously.”

Meanwhile, a group of local citizens in support of Byrum and his family have created a Facebook page: Our Kids Deserve Better – Bertie County. They have also established a GoFundMe account to assist the Byrum family with their medical bills and possible legal action.

A spokesperson for that group contacted the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald about a possible upcoming march in Windsor to address what was termed as a way to “help us make the schools safe for our kids.”


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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