MILLINOCKET, Maine – Police are investigating a fight at Stearns High School in which a 13-year-old middle school student suffered a broken nose and damage to her left eye in an attack that students recorded and posted to Facebook, officials said Wednesday.
The victim’s mother, Erica Dash, said her daughter’s nose is slightly dislocated and her left eye has a possibly slightly detached retina and is bleeding internally from the fight, which occurred about 2 p.m. Tuesday. The girl was treated at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor on Tuesday and is due to return for more examinations.
“I just can’t believe that my 13-year-old daughter has to suffer this pain,” said Dash, who has retained an attorney. “Who wants a young girl to go through all this pain and possible surgery?”
According to Dash and Superintendent Kenneth Smith, the middle-schooler was attacked by two girls. The victim had just left her last class and was in the hallway when she was punched by another eighth-grader.
The victim punched back and the two girls grappled until the third girl, a 16-year-old junior, kicked the victim in the head, breaking the victim’s nose and damaging her eye, as she was being held bent over.
Smith said he did not know whether Stearns Principal Linda MacKenzie already had issued suspensions or taken other disciplinary action.
MacKenzie declined to comment on the fight.
Police Chief Donald Bolduc said police were investigating the fight and all media releases on the incident would come through school officials.
“I am not sure exactly everything that has taken place, but there will definitely be suspensions to the maximum [10 days] that is allowed,” Smith said Wednesday. “We don’t put up with violence of any kind. We are going to deal with it in the firmest manner possible. I am very sorry when something like this happens to any kid.”
Besides possibly facing criminal charges, Smith said, the two attackers could face expulsion. Under school regulations, the Millinocket School Committee is empowered to expel students upon recommendation from school officials. No hearing dates have been set, Smith said.
The two students who recorded the incident, apparently on their cellphones, could be suspended or expelled — as could any student who posted the incident on Facebook or other social media – if school officials determine that the recording and posting were part of pre-planned efforts at bullying.
“If we have evidence that this was more of a conspiracy to do something, to create violence, if it was bullying, then expulsions can occur,” Smith said.
The school board just recently began reviewing its policies regarding social media use in school. Under existing cellphone policies, students can use cellphones only as part of classroom exercises with a teacher’s permission or in emergencies, Smith said.
Dash said she was shocked at the fight, echoing Smith in saying that it appears to be an isolated incident. Dash described her daughter as a happy, lively girl who performed well in school since she started attending Stearns and Millinocket Middle School in November 2011.
“So far I think they are handling it very well. They are very attentive. They have called quite a few times to see if she is OK. The school seems to be doing the right thing so far,” Dash said.
Teachers reacted quickly to the incident. One got a wheelchair and took the girl to the school nurse in it, and the nurse immediately tended to the injuries. School workers called Dash immediately and Dash was at the school by 2:15 p.m., Dash said.
“I totally trust the teachers there. I love the teachers,” Dash said. “They really help her a lot. They go over and beyond to help her with her schoolwork.”
“They are just letting her run with learning and I love that about the school. They are giving her challenging work and she is responding. Absolutely, the teachers are wonderful,” she added.
Dash said she had warned a school counselor of trouble between her daughter and another girl about two months ago. She said she wasn’t sure what the counselor had done since, but the fight was the first incident between the girl and her daughter since the call.