Student expelled

Middle school student with history of assault not eligible to return until fall

A Craig Middle School student with a history of assault and suspensions was expelled Thursday by the school board after he allegedly choked another student unconscious with a T-shirt in the school's locker room.

The student won't be eligible to return to school until the fall.

The Moffat County School District Board of Education unanimously approved Superintendent Pete Bergmann's recommendation to expel the student following a closed session during Thursday night's board meeting.

The board met with the expelled student's family during the private meeting.

The Craig Daily Press does not print the names of juvenile offenders or their victims.

The victim's mother complained to the school board members early in the meeting. She said the district did not handle the Feb. 25 choking incident in a timely and upfront manner. Craig Middle School officials should have called a nurse and police soon after the incident, she said. She also said she wasn't notified of the incident until later in the day.

"I'm a little frustrated with what happened," she said. "My son was choked in the boys' locker room and he was not seen by the nurse or the hospital. I just want to make sure that doesn't happen to any other kids."

Craig Middle School Principal Steve Wiersma said the concerns of the victim's mother were "right on."

The victim didn't see a nurse and police weren't called in to investigate the incident until the next day.

"We didn't respond appropriately," Wiersma said. "Obviously, if any student loses consciousness we want them to see a nurse. Our chain of command broke down."

The school also has a policy that a teacher should be present in the locker room with students, yet there was no supervision at the time of the incident, Wiersma said.

"We regret that happened," he said. "We're not going to be 100 percent covered with supervision alone, and we can't expect children to step in and accept a whole lot of responsibility."

According to a complaint filed by the District Attorney's Office in Moffat County's 14th Judicial District Court, the alleged offender was charged with menacing using a real or simulated weapon and third-degree assault.

A Craig Police Department report of the incident said the victim did not have any prior problems with the alleged offender, but was "scared (he) might do something else to him."

The victim was witnessed by other students being choked, falling to floor and passing out. The alleged offender admitted to putting a shirt around the victim's neck, but did not think he choked him unconscious, according to the officer's report.

According to state law, the alleged offender will receive some sort of district-led education outside of the Craig Middle School, said Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan.

School board member Jo Ann Baxter relayed to the alleged offender's family the board's difficulty in supporting the decision to expel the student.

"We have not given up on him," she said. "We want him to come back in the fall and be a successful citizen."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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