10-year-olds involved in ‘vicious’ and ‘graphic’ school bus attack in Beaufort Co., police report says

Three 10-year-olds assaulted an 8-year-old boy on the school bus ride home from St. Helena Elementary School this past March in a “vicious” and “very graphic” attack after the boy insulted one of the attackers’ mothers, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and a lawsuit filed by the victim’s mother last week.

“During the prolonged assault, (the child) was grabbed, choked, and dragged to the floor of the bus. While on the floor of the bus, (the child) was repeatedly hit and kicked in the head, back, and abdomen,” according to the suit, which seeks damages from the Beaufort County School District for the child’s “physical, mental, and emotional injuries.”

In reporting the attack to the sheriff’s office on March 12, Delores Matthews, an assistant principal at St. Helena Elementary, warned that video footage from the bus was “very graphic,” according to a police report.

“It is hard to believe that kids 10 years of age were conducting themselves in such a vicious manner,” Matthews said to a deputy, according to the report.

District spokesman Jim Foster declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday. He also declined to comment on the fight.

Details of the attack

At the end of the school day March 8, a male student began “talking smack” to the 8-year-old boy after hearing the latter talk to a teacher about storing his laptop, according to a heavily redacted sheriff’s office report.

The 8-year-old told the student to “shut up” and the two got into a physical altercation, which the teacher broke up, according to the report.

At some point, the 8-year-old made a comment about “about someone’s mother,” according to the report.

The fight continued on the school bus ride home when another student repeatedly touched the back of the 8-year-old’s head and made “derogatory comments towards” him, prompting the 8-year-old to get up and try to move toward the front of the bus, according to the report.

When the 8-year-old got up, though, three students — two boys and a girl — put him in a headlock, dragged him to the bus floor and struck him “over and over again while he (was) on the ground.”

One of the three kicked the boy in the face before a fourth attacker entered the fray, according to the report. The boy told his attackers he was “having a hard time breathing.”

One of the attackers took off his own “red-and-green ‘Gucci’ belt,’” and threatened the 8-year-old with it, according to the report.

During the fight, two other students attempted to shield the 8-year-old from the attackers.

One of the attackers told the two students, “I’m black, your (sic) white, you don’t want this” before striking one of them in the face, according to the report.

According to the surveillance footage on the school bus, one student said to another “move out of the way or I will chop you too.”

“The bus driver stopped the bus multiple times during the video, however the students failed to listen to his instructions,” a sheriff’s deputy wrote in the report.

Matthews, the school’s assistant principal, told deputies she only knew the driver’s first name, and that he normally drove a Beaufort High School bus.

The 8-year-old’s mother told deputies that her child’s face was “very bruised and swollen” after the assault, and that he had scratches, red marks and bruises on his body, according to the report.

All three attackers were petitioned to Family Court. One was charged with third-degree assault and battery and two were charged with second-degree assault and battery.

Matthews told a deputy that she would attempt to get the students “located into the alternative elementary school located at Whale Branch Elementary,” according to the report.

Jeff Kidd, the communications director for the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, said he was “not at liberty” to comment on the status of any juvenile cases Tuesday.

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Rachel Jones covers education for the Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has worked for the Daily Tar Heel and Charlotte Observer. Rachel grew up in Ayden, NC, surrounded by teachers.