Mother Of Stabbing Victim Speaks Out

Mother: School is not doing enough to protect PHS students

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The mother of the 15-year-old Payson High School stabbing victim said she wants better answers.

In an interview with the Roundup on Sunday with three other mothers of Payson High School students and several students, the mother of the victim said she is not satisfied with the answers given to her by school officials about the incident on Tuesday which ended with her son being stabbed in the abdomen by another 15-year-old student while off campus during lunch.

"I'm considering not sending him back to Payson High at all," she said.

"He's got classes with these kids who were harassing him, you can't tell me he's going to be safe when the fact that this one student had a knife in class and was showing it off."

The mother said she feels that if there was a student showing a knife to other students while in class, teachers are not paying enough attention to what is going on around them in their own classrooms.

When asked if any of the students who said they saw the knife in class reported it to school officials, they all said they had not.

They said that even if they had told someone about it, they didn't feel that anything would have been done.

"We've told people about stuff (harassment) before and nothing happens," one student said.

Sharon Tappan, mother of another Payson High School student and two middle school students, said she is also considering removing her kids from the school because of fears for their safety.

"I would take all of my kids out of the schools here and home school them instead, if it meant keeping them safe," she said.

Another mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she is also worried about the safety of her children.

She said, "I home school my fourth-grader, and I will not hesitate to do the same with any of my kids."

The consensus of opinion among the mothers is that their children are being singled out and ostracized because of the way they look and dress.

In a letter addressed to the high school school administration, a concerned mother wrote, "This young man was stabbed because of the color of his hair and the color black," she said.

"I did not know that living in the town of Payson meant my kids were going to be tormented."

When asked if they had reported any instances of harassment or bullying to school administrators or law enforcement, most of the mothers and students said they had not.

In the letter to the school, one mother said her son told her that he and his friends have had rocks thrown at them while sitting outside the administration offices.

The student said the same thing happened the day of the stabbing and that a threat of violence against him was made on the same day the stabbing occurred.

When asked if he reported any of the rock throwing or the threat against him to school authorities, the student said he had not.

Payson High School Principal Roy Sandoval said that he knew of no official reports from any of the mothers or their children in the past regarding intimidation or bullying.

"We do take any case of bullying seriously," he said. "If we aren't told about a situation and given the opportunity to try and deal with it though, it's not fair to blame us for something we were unaware of."

He said that there is a certain amount of teasing which goes on in any school, but that the district does take complaints seriously and if students or parents submit an official complaint or go to school officials and tell them about it in person, the school will follow the complaint to its conclusion.

Sandoval provided a letter he had sent to a student accused of bullying another student in the past.

In the letter, Sandoval addressed the issue of bullying and intimidation and spelled out in no uncertain terms the consequences of further harassment or intimidation. He even went as far as citing Arizona law regarding consequences.

Mothers also voiced concerns about the fact that no lockdown was ordered at Payson High School after the incident.

When confronted with this issue, Sandoval said that it was a decision he had to make quickly and that he feels it was the right one to make, given the circumstances that he knew about.

"Let me ask you this, if you have about half of the student population still off campus when you order a lockdown, how can you protect them if they are not on campus?"

He said that it was not an issue to him, because as soon as he received notice of the incident from law enforcement, just minutes after it occurred, he could see from his office window that police had already apprehended the suspect, as he was coming back on school grounds.

As far as campus security during lunch periods and throughout the day, Sandoval said that while students are allowed to leave campus for lunch, they are not allowed to leave whenever they please.

"I think the paper miscommunicated our policy on students leaving campus," he said. "You wrote on Friday that students can leave campus any time they please, that is not true, except for lunch periods, students must sign in and out any time they leave campus."

The policy of the Roundup is not to print the name of the juveniles or of family members. They will only be referred to as the "victim," or as a relative or friend of the victim.

See related story:

Student dispute leads to stabbing

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