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School As Torture

Girl repeatedly beaten, CMS looks the other way

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Angel Mort first went to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools administrators last spring after she watched kids hurl soda bottles and other objects through the window at her daughter as she got off the bus. Mort begged a transportation administrator and the assistant principal at Bradley Francis Middle School in Huntersville to change her daughter's bus assignment, but got nowhere.

It was only the beginning of what the gang of girls who targeted 12-year-old Brittnay had in store for her. At first, when girls she didn't know threatened to beat her up and hurled insults at her in front of other kids, Brittnay made the mistake of fighting back verbally and physically, or at least trying to. But with her small size, Brittnay didn't get far.

According to witness reports written, after an incident in May, by students who didn't know either girl, Brittnay managed to punch a girl back who hit her before the girl swung Brittnay around by her hair, then kicked her and stomped on her face. Because Brittnay fought back, both girls were suspended for fighting. Brittnay came home with bruises and black eyes.

Since then, things have deteriorated in Brittnay's daily fight for survival. When the bell rings between classes, the hunt is on. Every moment of Brittnay's school day is planned around avoidance and escape. Hands and feet snake out of the crowded halls and punch and kick her. Girls slap her. The bathroom was a refuge until they figured out where she hid. Once, she was beaten with a brush. Brittnay used to have a lot of friends until they were targeted for hanging out with her.

Since the beginning of school, Brittnay said she pleaded with teachers, the principal, the assistant principal and all the guidance counselors for help, sometimes daily. Some of the teachers, Brittnay said, seem as scared of the girls as she is. Everyone tells her they'll look into it. They've told her parents the same thing in response to their repeated complaints, but little has happened.

Brittnay and the girls were put in mediation, but no one was punished, although according to the school handbook, the gang of girls had long ago qualified for enough suspension time to be removed from the school. The mediator told Mort she could do nothing, because it was the principal's responsibility to punish the girls. But school administrators simply referred the girls back to mediation.

It's the same sort of response Lauren Jay's mother got when she begged school officials to reassign her daughter, a student at Alexander Middle School in Huntersville, after she was repeatedly assaulted on the bus and school grounds by two girls. They did little, despite her attackers' extensive disciplinary records, until Jay, 13, was beaten so badly by one of the girls in February, it required an hour-long surgery to repair her jaw. Jay's lawyer has filed a claim with CMS to cover Jay's medical bills.

So one would think that the principal of Bradley Francis might have taken some precautions on the morning of October 17, when Mort claims she warned him by phone that the girls were threatening to "jump" Brittnay again.

But by the end of the day, Brittnay was on the ground in the bus lot, being beaten. Brittnay says she initially tried to punch after the girl came at her, and says she doesn't remember what happened after she was flung to the ground by her hair; after the impact, everything was a blur. CMS officials say Brittnay fought back and suspended her for 10 days.

The Huntersville Police Department saw things differently. It charged the girl who instigated the attack with assault after a school resource officer investigated the incident.

In the meantime, school officials have finally shown some interest in the situation. After Mort and her husband emailed the entire school board, begging for help, on October 17, they received their first written response from CMS since they had begun complaining months earlier in the spring. The response? The October 21 letter from CMS' Law Enforcement Department bans both of Brittnay's parents from school grounds because they displayed "unacceptable behavior" when they came to pick Brittnay up after the fight. The letter doesn't define unacceptable behavior, but both Brittnay's parents say they were steamed, and they let administrators know it verbally.

Brittnay's parents say they can't afford private school and don't know what they are going to do when their daughter's suspension is up, because they fear for her life if they send her back to the school.

If this kind of thing happened between a husband and wife, we'd call it domestic violence. If it happened between complete strangers on the street, we'd call it assault and battery. But when it happens repeatedly to a student at CMS, apparently, we call it no big deal.

Contact Tara Servatius at tara.servatius@cln.com. You can also let CMS know your opinion of this situation by calling Schools Superintendent James Pughsley at 980-343-6270.

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