Two young boys were suspended after they allegedly touched a 10-year-old girl inappropriately while she was asleep on the school bus.
Mikaila Hanna was on a bus headed home from a three-day camp with fellow students in early October, when she began drifting in and out of sleep. Hanna was awoken twice by two boys touching her on her face, chest, in her mouth and in her pants. Two female classmates told authorities they witnessed the touching, and said they also saw the boys putting their hands down their own pants at one point during the bus ride.
Superintendent Mark Neal told the Zanesville Times Recorder that the incident was “not enough to expel the boys,” and opted to suspend them while an investigation took place. Neal said they would also face additional punishment. He declined to offer details of the punishment, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. “I'm not afraid to expel kids,” Neal said. “If this happened, the last thing we'd want to do is cover it up. That's crazy.”
Hanna and her family attended the local board of education meeting late last week in an effort to “shed light on what they perceive as the school district's severe mishandling of the situation” and encourage other young sexual abuse victims to speak out.
“I want to let (young sexual abuse victims) know that they have a voice and they can use it,” Hanna said. “Don't feel like it's wrong to speak out. Say what's on your mind. ... You haven't done anything wrong."
Hanna’s case was submitted to Juvenile Prosecutor Lia Meehan, who said that punishment “is up to the parents or school.” Meehan didn’t say whether or not she felt a crime had been committed. “My hands are tied,” she said. “We can't, constitutionally, prosecute (the suspects). If we could've done something, we would have."
“I look for corroboration,” Meehan said. “The lack of that could absolutely be explained by the girls waking up at different points (and seeing different things), but the boys didn't admit to anything, and there's no evidence that any force was used.”
Jess Hanna, Mikaila’s mother, said her biggest concern is the fact that it took the school more than 12 hours to inform her of what happened to her daughter. “Even if it had been a day, it's not like the girl was in any immediate danger,” Neal maintained.
Other local parents have since expressed concern for the well-being of their children, and some called for the school to review their response and preparedness measures to prevent future incidents from occurring.
“Before you can fix anything, there has to be an acknowledgment of wrongdoing,” Kevin Spears, a father of three young students, said at a recent school board meeting. “The very first thing you do is contact the parents in a situation like this, right? Maybe if there was a chaperone in the back of the bus too instead of just up at the front, that would help. I don't know, but it's worth looking into.”
Source: Zanesville Times Recorder / Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org