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Brandon student found unconscious in middle school restroom; assault suspected

by Susan Bromley

December 07, 2011

Brandon Twp.- Police are investigating whether an 8th grade boy found bloody and unconscious in a Brandon Middle School restroom was attacked by a fellow student.

"We are investigating this as an assault," said Oakland County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Pete Burkett, commander of the Brandon substation. "We have a suspect who is being questioned. We are actively interviewing witnesses and getting statements from students and putting together an investigative package that can be presented to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office for any possible criminal charges."

At about 11 a.m., Nov. 28, the victim, a special education student at BMS, was found unconscious on the floor in the boys' bathroom, bleeding from the nose, with a swollen left eye and facial contusions. Allegedly, the student who reported it is the suspect, also a special education student.

Burkett said the victim had been in the bathroom less than five minutes, as he had just been let out of class to go to a gym class.

"It appeared to be a medical emergency, he was unable to describe what had happened," Burkett said. "He was put in a wheelchair and taken to the office and 9-1-1 was summoned."

While in the office, the boy was in and out of consciousness and stated he had fallen, Burkett said. His father and grandmother arrived and the victim was transported by ambulance first to William Beaumont Hospital in Troy, before being transferred to Beaumont in Royal Oak. He was initially listed in critical condition, with a concussion and fractures to his eye orbital bone and sinus cavity. He was released from the hospital Nov. 29 and the following day, a police report was filed after the boy told his grandmother he had been beaten by the suspect, who had been bullying him all school year.

"We find all bullying, and certainly something that rises to the level of assault, to be concerning," said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. "This is terrible. One of our primary goals is for kids to never have to fear anything. When they are bullied, taunted, hazed...in this situation it could have been fatal."

Possible charges in this incident could include assault with intent to do great bodily harm, said Bouchard, adding that the student who is suspected in the assault has been suspended indefinitely from school.

"This was a very serious incident," said Burkett. "Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation that is circulating that is hindering our investigation... Due to the serious nature of these types of incidents, we want to be sure to be thorough and precise."

"There was a regrettable incident at the middle school and I can not comment on an ongoing investigation, but I can assure parents that the safety of our students is our highest priority," said Brandon Schools Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "Student behavior is always our biggest concern and we have anti-bullying policies in place."

Those policies will be reviewed, she added, in light of anti-bullying legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday. "Matt's Safe School Law" requires Michigan school districts to adopt and implement anti-bullying policy by next June that includes statements prohibiting bullying of a pupil and retaliation or false accusation against a target of bullying, a witness or another person with reliable information about an act of bullying. All pupils must be protected under the policy and bullying must be equally prohibited regardless of subject matter or motivation. Schools must identify by job title the officials responsible for implementation of the policy, state how the policy will be publicized, and have procedures in place for reporting acts of bullying, as well as a procedure for notifying the parents or legal guardians of both bullying victims and perpetrators, and a procedure for prompt investigation of policy violations or related complaints. There must also be a procedure for documentation of reported prohibited incidents and reporting of verified bullying incidents and resulting consequences to the school board.

While not mandated, the new law encourages bullying prevention measures including training, task forces, and education programs.

An anti-bullying group, "The Power of 100," was formed in October at Brandon High School. The group is formed of staff and students who speak out against bullying and use positive peer pressure to stop bullies.

The Power of 100 will sponsor the first annual rootbeer float social at 2:40 p.m., Dec. 14, at the BHS cafeteria, 1025 S. Ortonville Road. The group will give a free rootbeer float to any student that pledges to end bullying.