Liberty Middle School has an anti-bullying policy. But something went badly wrong last week when 12-year-old Blake Kitchen ended up in a hospital after being beaten unconscious by an older, much larger boy.
Blake’s mother and grandfather had told school officials that the older boy had been harassing Blake’s 14-year-old brother, Preston. As Blake recovers at home from injuries, including a broken jaw and fractured skull, they understandably wonder why the school did not protect its students.
That is a pertinent question for the Liberty School District. Its middle school had a bullying prevention system. Students were encouraged to report incidents. And yet bullying escalated into a violent assault.
The district must conduct an unbiased investigation. What were the warning signs? Had other students complained about the eighth-grader who was taken to Clay County Juvenile Court after the attack on Blake?
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Destiny Kitchen, Blake’s mother, told reporters the school principal twice talked to her older son and the eighth-grader. But the older boy’s hostile behavior was clearly not confined to a conflict with only Preston. Did the school underestimate his capacity for violence?
The district must use this painful incident as a learning tool. Parents deserve a full accounting. The findings may be of use to other school districts.
The attack on Blake, who weighs a bit more than 70 pounds, is a chilling reminder that students can be at severe risk where they go to learn and grow. Adults must do more to keep them safe.