After Monee and Jessica Lemus’ first grader, Josiah, was attacked by another student at Seitz Elementary School, the couple is still concerned about the way the school handled the alleged assault.
All he did was ask another student to be nice and then try to use the bathroom, his parents said.
According to Monee Lemus, Josiah was assaulted by the other student after her son entered the bathroom to the sight of the bully with another student pinned against the wall. Josiah told the bully to be nice, she said. The bully told Josiah to leave — that this was his class’ bathroom and Josiah couldn’t use it. Josiah ignored the bully, sidestepping him to use the restroom. After he’d finished, he went to leave the restoom and found the bully waiting for him.
The bully grabbed him and choked him, according to Monee Lemus, and kicked him repeatedly.
During the incident, she said, a teacher’s aide poked her head into the bathroom and yelled at Josiah and his attacker to “stop fooling around,” and then left, after which the beating continued.
According to Monee Lemus, she was initially unaware of the severity of the assault because, she said, the school initially downplayed it.
She said the principal called her up and asked her to come to the school, saying “don’t worry, Josiah’s okay, he’s not injured or anything. I just need to talk to you guys.”
Later, Monee Lemus said, she would be told not to worry, that her son hadn’t been targeted, and that he’d been in the bathroom when another child scratched him and kicked him a few times.
“She was very vague,” Monee Lemus said.
The incident report read, “two scratches on his neck.”
According to Monee Lemus, there were more marks than that.
“In all reality, he had five finger indentions that, when we got there, still had blood in them and were red,” she said.
He also, she said, had marks on his face, including a cut on his nose, a mark on his chin and lumps and bruises on his shin where the bully had kicked him.
“There’s a huge difference between scratching and holding someone against their will and choking them until they can’t breathe,” Monee Lemus said. “Kicking them, and hitting them, and causing injury like that versus just a scratch.”
He had told the school nurse, according to Monee Lemus, that his head was pounding and he was having a hard time breathing — a concern because he suffers from asthma.
“All it says is that they cleaned him up, put a Band-Aid and gave him an ice pack,” Jessica Lemus said. “And then just sent him back to class.”
Monee Lemus asked to see Josiah. He came to the office, in tears, and told her what had happened.
“He explained the story and (it was) completely different than what she said and then she agreed with him,” Monee Lemus said.
She was confused as to why no one had told her about the severity of the alleged assault and felt school staff had tried to brush it under the rug.
“When my wife first got the phone call — mind you, on the incident report, it said 10:04 a.m. — she didn’t get a phone call until 11:33 a.m.,” Jessica Lemus said.
Monee Lemus said she believes the way the incident was handled was negligent on the part of staff.
“The superintendent did issue some write ups, I guess, to staff, based on how they acted,” Monee Lemus said.
The bully, the couple said, was issued a one-day suspension.
In the aftermath, there have been lasting repercussions for the family.
It was a humiliating experience for Josiah, according to his parents.
“He’s scared to go back to school,” Monee Lemus said. “He’s very traumatized by it. He was very confused on why this kid was doing what he was doing.”
He may need to see a therapist and he will need to move schools.
Monee Lemus said the family had plans to move forward on the incident to ensure all responsible parties are held accountable.
She and her wife are concerned, she said, that something else might happen to another child.
USD 475 Associate Superintendent Lacee Sell was unable to confirm or deny that the staff involved in the incident had been disciplined, because it was a personnel matter.
She was also unwilling to answer questions about the incident itself, due to an ongoing police investigation.
“Through the advise of counsel, because this is an alleged assault that has been referred to the military police, I feel it inappropriate to comment any further until the matter — until the investigation would be complete,” Sell said.