Clover school district defends teacher response to student attack

05/24/2014 4:43 PM

05/25/2014 8:42 AM

Clover High School teachers and other school staff members were in the proper position to respond after a student was attacked inside the school before classes started on May 13, according to a statement from the Clover school district.

Shortly after 8 a.m., 16-year-old freshman Arkiva Rashon “AJ” Hunter allegedly assaulted another student, also 16. Rashon picked up the victim and slammed his head onto the concrete floor before repeatedly hitting the boy in the head with his fist, “causing great bodily injury, which was life threatening,” according to arrest warrants.

The assault was premeditated, said York County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Trent Faris. Hunter was charged as an adult with attempted murder.

Last week, the Lake Wylie Pilot criticized school officials for not releasing more details about the attack and for waiting 28 hours before informing parents about the incident. District spokesman Mychal Frost sent a written response to the Lake Wylie Pilot, which is a sister paper of The Herald.

The response addressed concerns raised in the editorial about the presence of teachers during the incident and discipline taken against students who may have recorded the incident on their mobile phones.

The editorial asked, “Where were the teachers?”

Frost said teachers are expected to “monitor the hallway area outside their classrooms each morning.” On May 13, teachers and other staff members were in proper position. He said it’s wrong to believe that the presence of adults “would have prevented or deterred this altercation.”

“Using the same logic, we should be able to assume that by having a police force, crimes would not occur. We recognize this is simply not the case in schools or society.”

The Lake Wylie Pilot editorial also asked if students who video recorded the incident on their mobile phones would be held accountable. Frost said they would, but student privacy laws prevent the district from releasing details.

In answer to the question about waiting 28 hours to notify parents, Frost said in situations like the one on May 13, “school officials’ immediate primary focus becomes the safety of the injured student and isolating individuals involved. Indeed, this is exactly what happened.”

The situation was controlled and there was no further risk to students’ safety, he said. The families of the two students involved were contacted, as were the families of the students who witnessed the incident. Law enforcement authorities were notified and school officials and law enforcement officials immediately began an investigation, but daily operations were maintained for all other students.

As with any incident that occurs at the school, Frost said the district will review how it handled both the initial response and the way in which information was communicated to parents.

In the message sent to parents the next day, Clover High School principal Mark Hopkins said “a great deal of misinformation and rumor” was circulating about the incident. Hopkins’ message, distributed via email and social media, said the injured student was recovering and the sheriff’s office was investigating.

It then encouraged thoughts for the families of the students involved before urging the “Blue Eagle community” to focus on exams, graduation and the “high character we have come to know and expect from each of our students.”

Board member and Clover High School parent Sheri Ciurlik said that she had “100 percent confidence” in the staff at the school and the district and that Hopkins used his discretion and “sent a message when he could include pertinent information without interfering with ongoing actions.”

“It is a fine line to walk keeping the community informed while maintaining respect for the official side of the incident and families directly involved,” she said.

The message sent by Hopkins on May 14 did both, she said.

Hunter was released on a $15,000 bond. The victim, who was initially taken to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte for his injuries, is recovering.

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