WILMINGTON, Del. (USA TODAY) - A 7-year-old girl returned to her elementary school on Wednesday, three days after she was pummeled by a fifth-grade student in an attack on their school bus, an incident caught on video on another student's cell phone.
The assault, which is being investigated both by Brandywine School District officials and state police, has prompted some changes to ensure students are safe when riding the bus to and from school, district Superintendent Mark Holodick said.
An aide was assigned to the bus Wednesday and students on that route are now riding on a new bus equipped with two video surveillance cameras instead of one, he said. A supervisor driving a gold SUV was also seen following the bus Wednesday.
The incident unfolded Friday afternoon on the ride home from Forwood Elementary School, according to the 7-year-old's mother, Aisha Williams-Gray.
When the school bus rolled up to her Woodacres apartment, several students carried her crying daughter off the bus, she said.
"The kids were all saying that there had been a fight on the bus and that the driver didn't stop it and kept on driving to reach our stop."
The children told Williams-Gray that the fight had been provoked by a fifth-grade girl, who bullied and then attacked her daughter when she wouldn't give up her jelly beans.
A video of the assault was later sent to Williams-Gray.
In it, the fifth-grader could be seen initially giving Williams-Gray's daughter a shove. Then the first-grader stood up on the bus seat, to be eye to eye with her attacker, and the two girls exchanged words. The altercation escalated when the older girl shoved the younger one.
The fifth-grader grabbed the 7-year-old by the scruff of the neck and beat her repeatedly in the back of the head, then yanked her to the bus floor. She hit her a few more time before heading to the rear of the bus.
The attack, as seen on the video, took about 34 seconds amid shouts from the other children.
Williams-Gray took her daughter to a hospital, where she said the girl was treated for a traumatic hematoma to the head and a concussion.Williams-Gray then reported the incident to state police. And Monday morning she went to the school to confront officials who, she said, were apparently unaware of what had happened.
The bus driver wrote an incident report Friday afternoon, but the report wasn't received by district transportation and elementary scool officials until Monday, said district spokeswoman Alexis Andrianopoulos. They launched an investigation, reviewing surveillance tapes from the bus and interviewing students, parents and the bus driver, Andrianopoulos said.
"I've been to the school numerous times about the bullying," Williams-Gray said. "We could have avoided all of this if the older kids were separated from the younger kids on the bus."
Williams-Gray said she had to drive her daughter to school Wednesday because she feared riding the bus.
"How do I ensure that she is going to be safe in school? And my daughters love going to school."
Forwood Elementary School parent Jill Fella said when the videotape of the incident was shown on the news Tuesday night, she thought it had happened at a Philadelphia school. She was shocked to learn that the victim was a girl in her son's class.
"The saddest part is the girl got a concussion," Fella said. "It's a sad situation all around. I know that things like this can happen anywhere. But Forwood is a good school and you don't hear many bad things about the school."
Holodick said district officials are reviewing the situation, as well as what was happening in the weeks leading up to the attack, which he called "unacceptable."
"This is the first time these two students had a confrontation," he said. "That doesn't mean that there wasn't anything prior to this happening. The school district is doing everything to ensure that something like this doesn't happen again."
"Clearly, there is a perpetrator that has to be reprimanded and dealt with," Holodick said. He added that all students are afforded due process and would not say what, if any, action has been taken against the fifth-grader.
Terri Sanginiti, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal