Last night a Natalie Smith Carlson went to the Moorhead School Board with her daughter and shared a story of violence and re-victimization. Smith Carlson’s 15 year old daughter was assaulted November 12th by a male student at Moorhead High School. According to a report about the incident, the male student put Smith Carlson’s daughter in a headlock and shoved her to the floor. When her daughter was finally able to run away other students had to physically restrain the male student from following her. The young woman was understandably traumatized by the incident.
But what added insult to injury was what happened next – not only a lack of action, but a re-victimization. Per Smith Carlson, the young woman was forced to meet with her attacker after the incident by Principal Dave Lawrence despite her protestations that she did not feel comfortable doing so. No counselor or victim advocate was in the room. The meeting was so traumatic for Smith Carlson’s daughter that she cried through it and could not speak. All this happened without the mother being notified by the school.
The male student reportedly has a history of assaulting other female students. According to Smith Carlson, the high school’s handbook states that a parent is to be immediately notified of such an incident and the perpetrator of such violence is to be suspended for three days. The male student was not suspended.
Unbelievable. Have we learned nothing about school violence? Violence cannot be tolerated in schools. The school operates under the in loco parentis doctrine and is responsible under the law for safeguarding students while they are under their care. The law is clear in this area and schools that are derelict in this duty not only put students in harm’s way, but also open the door to lawsuits.
Moorhead High School clearly made an error here. It needs to be fixed and procedures that are in place need to be followed to ensure that such a situation does not occur again. This is one area where the cost of errors is too high a cost to pay.
Day one thousand two hundred and forty-two of the new forty – obla di obla da