This one comes from my backyard. In Columbia, Missouri that is. It is a disturbing story.
According to a report yesterday by Brennan Davis in the Columbia Daily-Tribune, a thirteen year old reported being attacked by a group of fourth and fifth graders on the playground of Derby Ridge Elementary School. “The girl told police she was tripped, punched, kicked and hit in the back of the head while trying to escape.”
Apparently there was a witness, and one of the alleged perpetrators may have videotaped the incident, according to the girl’s father. Hopefully that tape surfaces to shed light on the event.
The girl told police that the incident started when a boy called her “ugly,” and she responded by calling him a name. Then, he threatened to return with his “family,” which turned out to be as many as 15 black boys and girls. The victim was white.
It’s early, and not many conclusions should be drawn at this time. There are serious questions that need to be asked, and information still to emerge.
Here’s something I didn’t quite understand from the story:
In the third and fourth paragraphs, Brennan writes:
“The boy responded by saying he was going to ‘go get his family to take care of her,’ Westbrook said, reading from the report. A short time later, he said, 15 black boys and girls returned to the playground and assaulted the victim, who is white.”
“A witness told police the assailants were fourth and fifth graders at the school at 4000 Derby Ridge Drive.”
But in the sixth paragraph, it is stated:
“Because the alleged assailants are younger than the victim and the girl and her assailants attend different schools, Westbrook said, police have no information about the suspects’ identities. The victim did not recognize any of her attackers.” (emphasis added)
Does this mean police suspect fourth and fifth graders from Derby Ridge, who are also black, but do not have leads as to particular names and identities of individual suspects?
How many fourth and fifth graders could there be at Derby Ridge? And how many of them are black? That would seem to narrow things down.
In 2008, 29.10% of Derby Ridge’s student population was black, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. That percentage has increased every year, from nineteen percent only four years previously.
Now, since that percentage has increased we can make a statistical inference that the percentage is slightly higher than the 29.1% average at the lower grades, and slightly lower than average in the higher grades (Derby is a K-5 school).
Using last year’s data and extrapolating the numbers, it would be reasonable to estimate that there may be roughly 30 African American students in the fourth grade and about the same amount in the fifth grade. Again, that’s only a crude estimate, but it at least gets us in the ballpark.
On the matter of evidence, it will interesting to see if by any chance the school has any video surveillance of the playground. I believe – this is something I will need to verify – that Derby Ridge is one of the newer elementary schools in Columbia, and it’s possible something like that could be in place. I’m merely thinking out loud here.
Juvenile officers are looking into the matter. Neither the principal (Tina Windett) or vice-principal (Kelsey Morris) could be reached for comment by the CDT yesterday. We’ll see if they or the district issues any sort of statement today. Last year, DESE reported only one discipline incident for the whole school for the whole year, and no violent acts.
Finally, will the race questioned be asked? Should it be? What, if anything did the victim report to police that would indicate a racial dimension to the assault? What, if anything about the incident itself might indicate a racial component?
Race may have had nothing to do with it, and let’s hope not. Regardless of motivation, a young girl was violently attacked by a group of peers, and that is the crime here. However, when a victim of one race is physically attacked by as many as fifteen assailants of another, it’s fair to ask whether racial considerations were at all at play.
How will police, the juvenile investigators and local media investigate the case and ask these types of questions? What really happened, and who is responsible? Only time will tell.