City school chief looks into bullying charge
MANCHESTER – The district’s school superintendent says he’s investigating allegations that administrators at Henry J. McLaughlin Middle School failed to adequately respond to a violent attack and events leading up to an assault that left a 12-year-old student without her front teeth.
“If the allegations are true, district policy was not followed and it’s very disturbing to me,” Manchester School District Superintendant Thomas Brennan said.
Morgan Graveline, 12, and her mother, Danielle Gauthier. (DAVID LANE)
“We’re examining the circumstances surrounding the incident. We’re still trying to track people down to get more information,” Brennan said, adding that he’s tried to reach the principal, Barry Albert, but “hasn’t got any answer.” The district is on vacation this week.
Meanwhile, the mother of the victim, Danielle Gauthier, says she’s removing her daughter from the district and planning to take legal action.
Gauthier says she only learned that her daughter, Morgan Graveline, had complained to administrators after the attack last week. She said her daughter complained about being harassed on Facebook by two 14-year-old students, “refugees from Kenya.” Then one of the boys hit Graveline on the bus, which, Gauthier said, was reported by the bus driver. The principal questioned both her daughter and the boys, she said, but they remained in the school. The attack that sent Graveline to the dentist occurred in the cafeteria a few days later, she said.
“They wanted her to be their girlfriend,” Gauthier said. “She isn’t even allowed to have a boyfriend. She’s just barely turned 12. She just wanted to be friends. They told her they were going to (expletive) her up so she’s not pretty anymore.”
She’s also dissatisfied with the response immediately after the attack, in which she said her daughter sustained multiple punches to the face.
“They never called 9-1-1,” Gauthier said.
She added that the police were not called, and despite numerous calls to headquarters, no one came out to take a report — until Monday, when the story received extensive media coverage.
Police Sgt. Craig Rousseau said he could not comment on the case due to privacy laws concerning minors.
“All I can say is we’ve been aware of the allegations from the beginning, and we’re investigating,” he said.
If the allegations are true, the school officials’ behavior violates several aspects of the state’s newly enacted anti-bullying law, which passed in July.
Among its requirements are that schools have “a procedure for notification, within 48 hours of the report, to the parent or guardian of a victim of bullying, harassment, intimidation, or cyberbullying and the parents or guardians of the perpetrator of the bullying, harassment, intimation, or cyberbullying.”
Carol Croteau, director of Bully Free New Hampshire, the group that spearheaded the anti-bullying law, said that school officials’ response to the incident is “disturbing.”
“We don’t know all the facts, but when we wrote the law, we wanted to ensure that parents would know that schools are taking positive steps to respond to bullying,” she said. “We need to know as a community these school leaders as well as students are being held accountable.”
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