Rock Hill charter school suspends girl, 12, who put plastic bag on classmate’s head

Mother of York Prep student who passed out not pressing charges

scetrone@heraldonline.com April 18, 2012 

A 12-year-old York Preparatory Academy student who placed a bag over a classmate’s head, causing him to pass out, has been suspended for the rest of the school year, the school’s managing director, Tom Graves, said.

The student isn’t allowed on campus during the regular school day and will get counseling in an alternative, after-school program, Graves said.

Police don’t plan to charge the student with a crime, Rock Hill Police spokesman Brad Redfearn said.

The 12-year-old victim, Assante Pettus, has returned to school and is in good health, his mother, Demetra, said.

Demetra Pettus said she’s satisfied with the punishment. But she is disappointed and frustrated with the way Graves and the Rock Hill charter school’s governing board handled the situation.

Graves did not get involved after the incident and didn’t reach out to her, Pettus said.

When she called Graves several hours after the incident, he told her he didn’t know much about what happened, Pettus said.

“He’s just been very insensitive,” Pettus said. “His attitude was so nonchalant.

“I’m not out for blood. But this is my child and I send him to school to be protected. Who could’ve known? Maybe five more seconds and he could have died.”

Graves declined to discuss Pettus’ account, but he said, “We take every incident at school seriously.”

Pettus said she also sent an email to York Prep’s board of directors sharing her experience and seeking answers, but she hasn’t heard back.

The board sent a letter to all of the school’s parents Tuesday blaming Rock Hill police for the national media maelstrom that ensued following the incident.

The letter reads: “We regret that the media escalated the nature of and circumstances surrounding this incident by reporting a mistaken police classification of ‘assault (and battery) with intent to kill’ resulting from a typographical error in the initial report. This has now been corrected by the Rock Hill Police department.”

That’s not true, Redfearn said.

“The case was never misclassified,” he said. “The information the officer got (from the school) matched the classification.”

Police investigated the allegations, interviewing Assante and his mother, as well as the student who attacked him, and determined there was no criminal intent, Redfearn said.

The Pettuses declined to press charges, which is necessary in a case like this for police to pursue charges, Redfearn said.

Demetra declined to press charges because Assante told her he didn’t fear the attacker or consider her to be a bully, she said.

If there had been a charge following the investigation, Redfearn said it would have been “assault.”

Here’s what happened around 2 p.m. April 12, according to a police report and interviews with Demetra and Assante Pettus:

Assante, a sixth-grader, was walking to class when someone came from behind and put a plastic bag over his head. He later told police that he couldn’t see who put the bag on his head.

It was tight around his neck and he couldn’t breathe.

“When she put the bag over my head, I couldn’t breathe, so I tried to pull it off, but I couldn’t pull it off because she was pulling it. And then I passed out,” Assante told The Herald’s news partner, WSOC-TV.

Demetra arrived at school as her son regained consciousness and paramedics found him to be in good health. Assante didn’t know who attacked him.

A school official called police that evening.

An administrator told the investigator that she didn’t see the incident, but several students who did gave written statements.

The police report lists a 12-year-old unnamed female as a suspect.

Police interviewed Assante and his mother on Friday.

After Assante heard who might have done it, he told police it might have been a joke that “turned out bad.”

National news outlets, including blogs, the Huffington Post and the New York Daily News, picked up the story.

Shawn Cetrone 803-329-4072

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