Beaufort News

Girl, 11, assaulted on school bus

Two 11-year-old boys have been charged with assaulting a classmate on a school bus.

According to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office report, the boys admitted to twice pinning down an 11-year-old girl on the bus and attempting to kiss and grope her.

All the children involved are students at Lady's Island Middle School, according to the report.

The assaults occurred Sept. 14 and 15, after the bus had stopped to pick up students from Coosa Elementary School on its afternoon route. Students in the fifth and sixth grades at Lady's Island Middle ride the bus with elementary-school students.

According to the report, on Sept. 14 the two boys climbed over the bus seat and onto the girl's lap. According to the report, they both tried to kiss her, but she yelled at them and pushed them off of her. The boys then got back in their seat.

The girl said the next day that the three were assigned to a seat in the back of the bus. According to the report, she did not think the boys would bother her again because she yelled at them the day before. But another girl dared the boys to jump on her, she said.

The boys pinned her in the back corner of the seat and sat on her lap. The girl said they groped her. She said she yelled and hit and kicked them, but they would not stop. She estimated the assault lasted for 20 or 30 minutes during the hour-long bus ride.

The bus driver said she didn't hear anything, school district spokesman Jim Foster said. Foster said Durham School Services, the contractor that provides the district's bus services, interviewed the driver and has a written report of the incident. The interview and report are standard in such instances of serious disciplinary problems on a bus, such as fights, Foster said.

"She didn't see anything, and no student reported any problem to her," Foster said.

Foster added that the fifth- and sixth-graders are assigned to the back of the bus so the driver can keep an eye on younger students.

Kristin Sattayatam, a spokeswoman for Illinois-based Durham, said the company was still investigating the incident and declined to release more information.

The incident was reported to Lady's Island Middle School on Sept. 16, according to the sheriff's report. The boys were suspended from school for three days and from the bus for 15 days, Foster said.

According to the Sheriff's Office report, assistant principal Aumen Kates took written statements from the boys, one of whom confessed to sexually harassing the girl. The other wrote that he didn't realize the extent of his actions.

"I thought I was just playing with her. I didn't know I was getting her mad," he wrote.

Kates and school counselor Lori Howell met with the girl and her parents about the incident.

The boys' written statements were given to Beaufort police Officer Alvin Harvey, the school's resource officer.

The incident occurred outside of Beaufort city limits and outside of the Police Department's jurisdiction, Beaufort police Chief Matthew Clancy said. So, Harvey did not file a report, he said.

When the girl's family inquired with Beaufort police as to the status of the case, the Sheriff's Office was notified, Clancy said.

On Sept. 21, the girl's father told the Sheriff's Office that his daughter "was so devastated by the incident that she could not go back to school."

Harvey then interviewed witnesses, who corroborated the victim's claims.

When the boys were interviewed by sheriff's Sgt. John Gobel, they said they knew what they did was wrong.

They were charged with second-degree assault and battery Sept. 23 and released to their parents. A Beaufort County Family Court date has been set for next month.

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