A school official said Friday that local educators were “appalled” to learn that three male students were caught on video appearing to assault another boy in the bathroom of a middle school.
But School Committee members also defended the district’s anti-bullying programs while saying that bullying is not an easy problem to fix.
Bullying is an “ongoing battle,” said School Committee member Patricia Riley, one “we haven’t won, that’s for sure.”
“I wish there was a guarantee that you could do X, Y and Z, and nothing like this would ever happen,” Riley said. “If there is a formula for this, I wish I knew what it was. I think we’re appalled by the situation.”
In the video, obtained by The Enterprise, three students appear to restrain and attack another boy in a school bathroom at the Williams Intermediate School.
Superintendent of Schools Jacqueline Forbes said she has seen the video and police are working with school officials to investigate.
Bridgewater police and a school official both said Friday that the three alleged attackers in the video were suspended from school but they did not have further details.
Asked about possible criminal charges, Bridgewater police Lt. Tom Schlatz said on Friday, “No (criminal) charges have been filed as of yet. When the investigation is complete, if anybody deems it necessary, it will be done then.”
A student filmed the video about 2 p.m. Tuesday using his cell phone while concealing himself behind a urinal wall, said his mother, who provided the video and whose name The Enterprise is not publishing to protect her son’s identity.
The alleged victim is a special needs student, as is her son, the mother said.
In the video, it appears that one boy holds the alleged victim against the wall while another punches him in the head. A third boy walks up to the alleged victim and appears to punch him in the stomach area. The alleged victim then falls to the floor.
Forbes on Friday declined to answer any questions about the incident, the video or the suspensions and issued only the following statement:
“The Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District is investigating a fight that took place at the Williams Intermediate School on Tuesday, May 17, at the close of the school day. The district is conducting an investigation into the allegation that this incident may be the result of bullying.
“The police have been notified and are working with us. The B-R Regional School District takes every allegation of bullying seriously. We investigate and will take appropriate disciplinary action in accordance with policy and statute.”
State law required all school districts to submit a bullying prevention and intervention plan before Dec. 31 to be reviewed by the Department of Education.
Bridgewater-Raynham met all deadlines and conditions, said Teri Williams Valentine, special projects coordinator for the Department of Education.
Bridgewater-Raynham’s 16-page plan mirrors most steps of the model produced by the state last summer, at times word for word.
But Quincy attorney Tina Smeaton, who is representing the mother and her son who recorded the incident, said while the district’s anti-bullying plan calls for zero tolerance, it hasn’t been followed.
She said the boy who filmed the alleged attack has been bullied by the same group of students for the last 18 months. Despite repeated notifications by his mother to school officials, Smeaton said, the bullying has continued and any actions by the school weren’t enough for the bullies to change their behavior.
“She didn’t feel her voice was being heard,” Smeaton said of the mother.
Smeaton said a meeting has been scheduled for May 31 between her clients, herself, Forbes and the school district’s attorney.
“The lines of communication are now open, which is great,” she said. “I’m hoping some changes come out of it.”
Pacy, the School Committee chairman, said the district has “clear policies” about bullying, which include suspension, but he added that the ages of those involved and specifics of the situation dictate what disciplinary action is taken.
Pacy said the behavior of the students in the video was “not acceptable” but they may have gotten caught up in the situation.
“I don’t condemn the students involved,” said Pacy, who as of Friday afternoon said he hadn’t seen the video. “I think it’s mostly their unawareness, reacting to the situation. But it’s not acceptable. Our parents, teachers and administrators have to make that very plain that it’s not acceptable.”
The Williams School, which includes grades 4 through 6, was the site of another bullying incident a year ago. Three students were suspended and ordered to write a report on Down syndrome after bullying a student on a school bus.
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