MCARTHUR – A father says he wants answers from school officials and law enforcement after his teenage daughter was attacked because of her race.
Aric Bledsoe’s 15-year-old daughter Kiera, who is African-American, was assaulted in a bathroom Tuesday, Aug. 23 at Vinton County High School.
A student recorded a video of the attack that spurred outrage on social media. Bledsoe’s daughter was treated for her injuries in the emergency room at the hospital in Chillicothe. Bledsoe said she sustained cuts and bruises to her face.
Bledsoe said the attack was racially motivated, a hate crime.
Sheriff’s Office said there is an open investigation into the matter and assault charges were filed Tuesday against the juveniles alleged to be involved. Sheriff’s Office said there will be further investigation into the hate crime aspect of the matter.
Vinton-Jackson Courier reached out to the school system with questions about the attack.
Superintendent Rick Brooks declined to answer questions about what happened, but he issued a statement Friday about the incident.
The Vinton County Local Schools and its administrators take all incidents that involve students very seriously, and we investigate those incidents thoroughly. Once facts are determined, discipline appropriate to the offense is issued as warranted. Discipline may include suspension and expulsion from school, suspension from extracurricular activities, and/or suspension from transportation.
Because this matter involves minor students and issues protected by student confidentiality, the Vinton County Local School District will not provide additional details.
All the students need a safe learning environment, and safety is the utmost priority for our school district and its administrators.
When the school system posted the Superintendent Brooks’ statement about the incident to social media, it generated 254 comments, 67 reactions and the post was shared 62 times as of Sunday morning. An overwhelming majority of the comments condemned the incident and the school’s system’s response.
Bledsoe blasted the school administration’s response to the attack.
“I never received one phone call,” Bledsoe posted to his personal Facebook page. “I only found out because my daughter called me crying from the principal’s office. I spoke to him briefly and demanded answers. I wanted pictures, the school recourse officer notified and a return phone call with details of what happened and what’s the next step was because this was a racially motivated hate crime and not the first incident. You want to know what I received? NOTHING. Not one phone call, the school never even called the resource officer or notified any officials and as of 9 p.m. tonight (Tuesday) still haven’t heard a word from anyone.”
Bledsoe said though he met with school officials later in the week, the matter remains unresolved.
“I discussed with them my issues and where they failed,” he said to the Vinton-Jackson Courier. “They pretty much didn’t have much of a response until they investigate it further. They admitted things were missed and they dropped the ball.”
Bledsoe said he had a meeting to discuss the matter with Sheriff Ryan Cain on Friday.
Bledsoe said his daughter is a victim of a hate crime.
“She was attacked and beaten by a girl because the color of her skin. She’s constantly called (racial slur) or a monkey or made fun of because of her hair,” he posted to social media.
Bledsoe said during lunch, a girl approached her and tried to get his daughter to fight her.
“Kiera once again told the girl to leave her alone and to get out of her face. A few moments later Kiera went to the restroom,” he posted to social media. “Once in the bathroom a group of girls had followed her. Several of these sweet little girls pulled out their phones and started recording as my daughter was jumped from behind and beaten.”
Vinton-Jackson Courier viewed the 10-second video that shows a white student repeatedly hitting Bledsoe’s daughter.
Bledsoe said he too has seen the video of the attack where he can hear girls taunting his daughter and laughing at her. He said one girl blocked the bathroom door so that his daughter wouldn’t be able to escape the assault.
Bledsoe blamed himself for not being able to help his daughter.
“I failed my daughter today,” he posted to social media. “I sent her to an environment where I assumed she’d be safe. This was her 5th day of being a freshman. Do you have any idea how this has affected her? We’ve been down this road with the school superintendent, teachers and principals for the last 3 years. I’ve lived in this county my entire life and to know this is how my child is treated because the color of her skin just blows my mind. I’ve lost all faith in humanity as I’m setting here typing this.”
During Bledsoe’s interview with the Vinton-Jackson Courier, he said this is not the first time his daughter has had to cope with being called racial slurs. He said academically, his daughter is a “B” student who aspires to be nurse. A freshman who is a member of the school’s volleyball team, she went to school the day after the attack.
“We’ve been dealing with this for the last three years,” he said to the Vinton-Jackson Courier. “She’s had to deal with every racial slurs imaginable but yesterday it was take to another level. She actually went today (Wednesday) so she could set with her teammates at the volleyball game. Right now the only visible injury is her busted mouth still and a concussion. We’ve been dealing with racial issues with the school for three years now. We’ve been promised a change and new programs to educate kids and teachers on diversity. Nothing has happened.”
Bledsoe said his daughter doesn’t feel safe at school.
“She doesn’t want to continue going to school here and still feels threatened,” he said. She’s tired of being differently because of her skin.”
Bledsoe said his daughter feels safe on the bus because she’s with her brother, but once she gets to the high school she has the issues
“She’s scared it’ll happen again because the schools never stopped or addressed the issues,” he said.
Bledsoe said though the school will be watching his daughter closely, but it won’t be enough.
“For the time being I’m sure they’ll show her extra attention but as time goes on it’ll go back to the normal and she’ll most likely be attacked with racial slurs or more online post about her,” he said.
Vinton County Board of Education will hold its next regular meeting at 5 p.m. Sept. 20 at the District Office.
Bledsoe pledged to get answers about the incident and condemned the school system.
“This is only the beginning and I promise every kid, parent or teacher that had any involvement or failed to protect my child today will pay,” he posted to social media. “I will no longer be quiet and I will no longer trust in you to protect my child while she’s in your care. The kids in this community are out of control and it starts at home with you people. I’m ashamed of where I’m from and what we’ve become.”
Vinton-Jackson Courier Editor Miles Layton can be reached at email@example.com