Just-released police reports about a Dec. 12 student assault at Rim Country Middle School reveal new details that parents of the assault victim said school and police officials denied them for at least a week after the incident.
Payson Police released a report yesterday about the on-campus assault that sent one would-be peacemaker to the hospital and put another student, who was already on probation, in the Globe juvenile detention facility.
Payson School District officials still refuse to comment on or release any details about the incident.
The police report indicates the assault didn't take place inside a school building as officers originally told the Roundup.
Instead, the dispute started at the end of class, but continued and escalated outside, between two buildings at Rim Country Middle School, with no adults present. In addition, the parents of the assault victim told the Roundup that the victim had to undergo surgery to repair four bones in his hand broken in an attempt to escape the onslaught of his attacker, who was choking the 14-year-old boy with a 16-inch chain.
School officials have cited Federal Education Records Privacy Act laws that protect the confidentiality of educational records, in refusing to release details of the assault. The police report released a month after the incident indicated the victim originally tried to calm the suspect during an incident in class, but the confrontation turned violent outside. Teachers didn't know the fight had taken place until the victim returned to class with bruises on his hand and neck.
The school nurse called the boy's parents to pick up their son after the assault, but provided them with no details. In fact, school officials offered the family few details about the assault or the boy arrested for the incident for a full week, said his parents.
"I'm not blaming the school or the district for what happened that day," said Carolyn Crisp, the victim's mother and a teacher at Payson Elementary School. "My complaint is that nobody was immediately forthcoming when we asked what had happened the victim."
The parent's account of the incident filled in the gaps in the original, fragmentary verbal reports provided by Payson police.
School and district officials have refused to release any information on the suspect, who spent several weeks in the Globe juvenile detention facility, prior to going before a judge this week.
"The suspect went before Judge Cahill in Payson on Tuesday, Jan. 8 for a pre-judicatory hearing and was released to a parent under conditions of house arrest," said Chief Probation Officer for GCSO, Frank Owens.
Crisp said her son made at least two attempts to leave the area, once the situation turned ugly.
Police reports indicated that the incident started when a third student threw a small piece of clay at the suspect at the end of class.
The suspect allegedly turned and started shouting and yelling. When the victim tried to calm him down, the suspect turned on him, according to Crisp and the police report.
"After the assault, the victim went to his social studies class and the teacher noticed the marks on his throat from the chain.
A teacher in the hall also noticed his hand was all swollen up and sent him to see the nurse, who decided to call his father, Mike Crisp, so he could take his son to see a doctor for a more thorough examination," Carolyn Crisp said.
After taking his son to a specialist in the Valley, the family discovered he had broken four bones in his hand after hitting his attacker multiple times in his attempt to get free, said Crisp.
"They had to perform surgery on him and put two pins in his hand, but they said they expect him to fully recover," she said.
According to the report, witnesses told investigating Payson Police officer Mike McAnerny that the suspect was hit in the back of the head with an object, which made the suspect angry and he began "cussing and screaming at the class."
The victim approached the suspect and told him to calm down and that it was no big deal.
Witnesses said the suspect was convinced the victim had thrown the object, so the victim walked away to avoid further confrontation. The bell ending class sounded and everyone left the classroom, said witnesses.
Witnesses told officers that after the two boys left class, the suspect again approached the victim and accused him of having thrown the object. After some mutual pushing and shoving, he again tried to walk away from the situation.
According to the witness, the suspect ran up behind the victim and took a 16-inch chain out, placed it around the victim's neck, then began choking him. The victim punched the suspect several times in an attempt to make the suspect stop.
The witness said after the suspect finally let go, the victim walked away and went to his next class.
O'Brien said the district has no tolerance for violence on campus and he said he feels they have an effective Positive Behavior and Intervention program.
"It's understandable that the mother of an assaulted student would be upset, but we do a very good job monitoring our students," O'Brien said.
He said the Payson Unified School District has a strict behavior policy and that a December award to Payson Elementary and Rim Country Middle Schools as "exemplary" by the Arizona State Department of Education for the district's successful implementation of Positive Behaviors, Interventions and Support (PBIS) is proof that district schools are safe.
"I think we have a very good record as far as this type of thing goes. Now, do we ever have to suspend or expel students for unacceptable behavior or violence? Yes. But I think our record speaks for itself," said O'Brien.