07/23/2011 // Paris, Texas, US // TiffNews10 // News Desk
Paris, TX – A Paris mother is unsettled following an incident at her son’s school that involved his being roped and repeatedly hit by a fellow student. A recording of the occurrence taken by another student was subsequently erased and not reported by his classroom teacher.
Tina Washington says that while picking up her autistic teenage son from Paris High School on April 20, he informed her of the unsettling incident that had occurred hours earlier. The teen, who Washington has requested not be named, purportedly told her “I got roped today.”
According to Washington, and paperwork related to the April 20 incident, her son was at school when he and three other students were together in a green house watering plants. While in the green house, a male student used a rope to hoist Washington’s son up and restrain him, and hit his hands with an object to the point of them bleeding, while he attempted to break loose. A female student was reportedly laughing along with the accused male student during the incident, and filmed the event on her cell phone.
At some point, Washington’s son reportedly asked when he would be set free, and the alleged aggressor purportedly told him he would stop once the plants were watered. Another female student was also present, but according to witness statements did not participate in the roping, and immediately turned off the sprinkler upon hearing the male student’s statement about stopping when the plants were watered. Afterward, the female student who had filmed the evidence of what happened on her cell phone, reportedly showed it to a teacher, whom Washington refers to as Mr. Merritt, and he erased the footage.
Washington says that her nephew later saw her son in the school cafeteria visibly upset, and insisted he tell the assistant principal what had happened to him. Washington said that after her son reported the incident, she was not contacted by anyone notifying her of what had happened, and did not obtain details of the event until after she questioned the school staff.
After investigating the April roping incident, Washington says that her inquiries to the Paris High School principal, Gary Preston, and assistant principal, Brock Blassingame about the event were initially dismissed. Blassingame reportedly told her the incident was simple horseplay and that he would handle it. However, no action was taken against the male student involved until some time after she persisted with getting an official complaint filed and no action has been taken against the female student who filmed the incident, nor the teacher who erased the video of it, to date.
Washington’s son has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that is characterized by considerable issues related to social interaction and behavior and interest patterns. Although the teen has no serious discipline record, Washington says she has had to visit the school on numerous occasions due to incidents of other students bullying her son on campus, for which the school has yet to provide her with a solution for ensuring his protection that she feels is adequate. The April roping incident was one that has left her questioning why PISD staff and administrators have been so dismissive of her concerns about the safety of her child while at school. Washington has stated her son is having a difficult time dealing with what has happened, and is currently in counseling.
With a new school year approaching the Paris mother is seeking to have the issue resolved, so that she feels that the safety of her son will be taken seriously by PISD staff and administration, and that the students and teacher involved in the April 20 incident are held accountable for their actions. She has met with Paris High School assistant principal Blassingame, principal Preston, who refused to meet with her initially, and others about finding a resolution, but says that the only thing proposed to her was to place her son in a focus group for children with behavioral problems, and allowing him to leave classes early to switch classes without having to run into other students that may bully him.
Washington said she feels that these are not adequate solutions, and do not help ensure accountability for those who commit wrongdoing while at school. She has taken her complaints about how the school has handled her son’s situation to the local NAACP, fearing racism might be a factor in their reluctance to take action in the matter. Washington’s son is African American and the other students involved are Caucasian. Other complaints have been filed against Paris High School and other schools within the Paris Independent School District, alleging racism being a factor in the disparity between the discipline rates of black and white students. The district was the source of major headlines years prior regarding the case of Shaquanda Cotton, a black who was sentenced to up to 7 years in a state juvenile facility at the age of 14 for allegedly shoving a white hall monitor.
The Paris chapter of the NAACP reportedly told her they would investigate the recent matter, but Washington says she has not heard back from the organization. An incident report taken by the on campus police officer upon Washington’s insistence that one be filed lists the offense of the accused student as being “unlawful restraint less than 17 years of age,” which is a felony, but no criminal action has been taken in connection with the matter.
Messages sent to Paris High School Principal Gary Preston, and the district’s superintendent Paul Trull were not responded to. Neither were messages to Paris NAACP President James Price, NAACP Texas 1st Vice President Bob Lydia, or Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe.