A mother expressed her concern for her children’s safety and frustration at what she considers a lack of communication from the Pickens County School system after two separate incidents involving her sons, including a recent choking incident.
Kayla Worley said, in the latest incident, she was notified in early January by the Victim’s Advocate Liason with the District Attorney’s Office about preparing her nine-year-old son for his upcoming court appearance.
The court appearance stems from a Dec. 5 incident where a 13-year-old Jasper Middle School student allegedly choked her son on the afternoon school bus. But Worley had no idea about the incident until the District Attorney’s office contacted her in January.
According to reports:
The students were on the bus after school when the middle school student started playing with the nine-year-old.
According to Maj. June Blackwell, of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, the bus video shows the middle school student choke the younger one “for a few seconds” before stopping, then choking him a second time.
According to the police report, another student can be heard on the bus yelling “Stop before you kill him.” Other students could be heard trying to convince the older student to stop.
The middle school student then releases the victim, who is seen gasping for air. The report was made on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, almost a week after the incident.
The older student was charged with battery and will go to court at a later date.
Left in the dark
“I had no idea,” Worley said.
Worley said she then contacted the Jasper Police Department, who referred her to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.
From there, she was put in touch with School Resource Officer John Croft.
“I spoke the the SRO who apologized. He works at the middle school and thought the elementary school would call me.”
But they didn’t.
Another incident was noted in the police report that happened on Monday, Dec. 9, when the 13-year-old punched the 9-year-old in the groin. When asked about this incident, Worley said she was never told about it.
Blackwell said the incident couldn’t not be confirmed.
Tony Young, assistant superintendent for Pickens County Schools, said he could not speak specifically on Worley’s case because it is still under investigation, but did say that parents should be notified when their child is involved in an incident on the bus.
“We have protocols to try to prevent anyone from falling through the cracks,” he said.
Young said they urge parents and students to notify their school administrators of incidents occurring at school or on the bus.
“When we are made aware of it, a report is made and we can discipline if needed,” he said. The 13-year-old has been indefinitely suspended from the bus, according to the police report.
Children’s safety questioned: not the first, or second time
But Worley disputes this, saying this isn’t the first time the school has failed to tell her about her son being involved in incidents at school.
“He is a sensitive child, but never said anything that made me think I needed to get involved. Several times, he has talked to Mr. (Dale) Spencer about kids bothering him,” she said.
Dale Spencer is the assistant principal at Tate Elementary.
“Mr. Spencer ended up moving the kids who were bothering him away from him, but I was never notified,” she said.
The incident echoes an incident in March 2019, when a registered sex offender was able to enter Tate Elementary School and was apprehended after going into the restroom. Four students came into the restroom. One of those four students was Worley’s youngest son, who is seven.
Worley said the school system notified parents about the incident, but it was later that night before the principal called to tell her that her son was one of the children who entered the restroom.
“They interviewed the students, without parents, without police, alone and determined nothing happened,” she said.
Bruce Lee Daniel, 57, of Dawsonville, was arrested in the incident.
Worley said she wants to send her children to school without worrying that something will happen.
“Parents shouldn’t have to worry about their children’s safety at school,” she said. “I am seriously concerned about their safety.”
If she had her way, her sons would transfer from Tate Elementary to Harmony Elementary School, but her request was denied.
“My request was denied because I did not make this request between May and August,” she said, adding that she would provide transportation for them if the school would approve the transfer.
Worley said she was told she could make the request again in May for the following school year, but her nine-year-old would be transferring to the middle school then.
She said that while she has talked to Young on several occasions, answers are not forthcoming.
“The only definitive response I get is I’m sorry and it should not have happened and my kids are safe,” she said. “I don’t believe them.”
Fetch Your News has made an open records request to obtain the video footage of the incident. Check back for more details.