DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - A 7-year-old boy suffered a horrific injury to his eye after getting kicked on the school bus, and now his parents are at odds with the district over describing the incident as an act of bullying.
According to his parents, Kayden Lord, a student at New Manchester Elementary, suffered an orbital fracture after a student kicked him in the face. The ordeal happened on May 15, as students boarded the bus after school. Douglas County School System officials confirmed the incident.
"He called me and my brother and friend stupid. I said I wasn't stupid. [He] jumped up and kicked me in the eye," Kayden tells FOX 5. "All I can describe -- it went black. I couldn't look up, sideways. It was just blurry," he said. He needed to be rushed to the emergency room.
"He could have went blind from this," said his mother, Lacresha Montgomery, who said her son suffered horrific pain, needed a CAT scan, and has visited numerous doctors and even a surgeon. Kayden must stay inside and avoid the sun for several weeks.
Montgomery shared a photo of her son's injuries on Facebook, and the post has garnered more than 1,600 shares.
"He walks up in my hallway mostly every day ... calls me names," Kayden said.
"This is an ongoing problem. The kid has called him names," said Montgomery, who discussed her concerns with the principal and district officials and insists the incident be addressed as a bullying problem.
Montgomery plans to transfer her child to a different school next year.
School officials confirmed the student responsible has been disciplined but could not say what measures were taken or if the student has been punished for "bullying" before.
In response to concerns from other parents in the district, a statement written by Superintendent Trent North was read at the May 20 Board meeting:
"Douglas County family, an image of a young boy is making the rounds on social media. That picture deeply disturbs and grieves leaders in the Douglas County School System. It is the image of a young boy injured on a school bus. The student’s injuries and his youthful innocence are visible to anyone who clicks on the picture.
"As a Superintendent, this picture disturbs me and Board Members for so many reasons. It is heartbreaking and deeply troubling. On a personal level, what happened to this young man is something I will never forget. We are a close family that cares for the children in our community. We are parents, aunts, uncles, mentors, and leaders to all the children in our community. As a team of professional educators, this incident pushes us to work harder to make sure an event like this never happens again in our school system. As the Douglas County School System works with the child and the family to find a peaceful resolution, there are some things we would like to clear up for those seeking answers.
"Firstly, this is an isolated incident. There is not a troubling pattern emerging on this bus. There is no pattern of this happening at this school or at any of our schools. No matter what social media may lead you to believe, our school administrators, teachers, and our bus drivers are here to nurture and educate our students. Every employee in our district is specially trained to protect our students from danger and harm.
"Our mission is to protect every parent’s most precious asset.
"This was not an act of bullying. This student was not a victim of bullying. It is inaccurate to characterize what happened to this student as bullying. The principal can confirm that this was an isolated, unfortunate tragic incident that happened to one student. This is not a group or copycat incident. This is a singular incident that happened between two students under our care.
"In the moments following this incident, the bus driver and the principal followed all proper protocols. The principal notified both parents immediately. The injured student was taken to the hospital. Consequences were swiftly administered to the student believed to be the aggressor.
"The parents of that student immediately showed remorse. They then took a brave bold step. They asked the principal’s permission to reach out to the parents of the injured student. They wanted to be connected with the other students and their family to issue a heartfelt apology.
"Those are the hard, painful truths about what happened in this incident.
"Whenever we take to social media without facts, we discredit the hard work of those chosen to do right by our children. We discredit the work of those doing the right thing and give power to our detractors intent on perpetuating falsities.
"Those are the uncomfortable truths. And The truth is, we hope and pray that an incident like this never happens to one of our students again.
"This incident is not what the Douglas County School System represents. Our school system is built on a foundation of integrity, transparency and a desire to see every student achieve academic and professional success.
"The administrators and the board members in this room tonight share the same commitment. Our unifying work is to create a safe secure place for every student to learn and grow.
"Because of what happened to this young man we are even more committed to protecting every student in our care. We will be even more committed to educating and inspiring students. And protecting them. From the moment they begin their education until the day they graduate and transition to college and career life, we will be there to keep watch. For this student and for every other Douglas County student, Our work will continue."
School officials said the investigation into the ordeal was closed earlier this week. Douglas County Officials also sent FOX 5 a portion of the student handbook, which describes "bullying":
"BULLYING - A pattern of behavior, which may include written, verbal, physical acts, or through a computer, computer system, computer network, or other electronic technology occurring on school property, on school vehicles, at designated school bus stops, or at school-related functions that is so severe, persistent,or pervasive so as to have the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s education, threatening the educational environment, or causing substantial physical harm or visible bodily harm. The term also applies to acts of cyberbullying which occur through the use of electronic communication, whether or not electronic act originated on school property or with school equipment, if the electronic communication (1) is directed specifically at students or school personnel, (2) is maliciously intended for the purpose of threatening the safety of those specified or substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school, and (3) creates a reasonable fear of harm to the students' or school personnel's person or property or has a high likelihood of succeeding in that purpose. Electronic communication includes, but is not limited to, any transfer of signs, signals, writings, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photo-optical system.34 Level 1 - First Offense of bullying as defined in Georgia Code Section 20-2- 751.4. Includes but is not limited to a pattern of unwanted teasing, threats, name-calling, intimidation, harassment, humiliation, hazing, physical attacks, extortion, social exclusion, coercion, spreading of rumors or falsehoods, gossip, stalking, or using any type of electronic means to harass or intimidate. Level 2 - Second incident of bullying as defined in Georgia Code Section 20-2- 751.4. Includes but is not limited to a pattern of unwanted teasing, threats, name-calling, intimidation, harassment, humiliation, hazing, physical attacks, extortion, social exclusion, coercion, spreading of rumors or falsehoods, gossip, stalking, or the use of electronic equipment on school property or using school equipment to harass or intimidate. Level 3 - Repeated acts, as defined in Georgia Code Section 20-2-751.4, occurring on school property or school possession that is a willful attempt or threat to inflict injury, or apparent means to do so, any display of force that puts victim at fear of harm, any written, verbal or physical act that threatens, harasses, or intimidates; causes another person physical harm; interferes with a student's education; so severe and pervasive intimidated or threatens the educational environment. Includes but is not limited to a pattern of unwanted teasing, threats, name-calling, intimidation, harassment, humiliation, hazing, physical attacks, extortion, social exclusion, coercion, spreading of rumors or falsehoods, gossip, stalking, or the use of electronic equipment on school property or using school equipment to harass or intimidate."