A local mom says she has removed her 12 year-old daughter from Johnston County Public Schools because administrators won’t protect her daughter. Jennifer Merlin says an incident at McGee’s Crossroads Middle School forced her to remove her daughter from the school March 3rd and enroll her in another middle school.
Merlin posted about the incident on social media and contacted Johnston County Report so that other parents are aware of what happened.
Merlin requested we not release her daughter’s name but did share her story. On February 26th, her child was in a seventh grade social studies classroom when a male student allegedly grabbed her between her legs and cut her pants in the groin area with a pair of scissors. She tried to push him away three to four times but he continued. The student then placed his cell phone under her desk and began videotaping the 12 year-old from the waist down.
Her daughter immediately notified the teacher who took her to the office and notified the vice principal. “The vice principal did not believe my daughter and upon our arrival at the school with new pants, the vice principal had still allowed the boy to remain in an assembly. So there’s my daughter exposed and humiliated in the office while the boy is relaxing in an assembly.”
After realizing how distraught her daughter was over the incident they took her home early for the day. The mom said they later found out the boy had shown the video to other students prompting them to call her daughter derogatory names and taunt her when she returned to class the next day.
On Feb. 27th, Merlin says a meeting was held with McGee’s Middle administrators and the family was promised there would be an investigation and consequences for the offender. Because the male student was a minor they could not say what type of consequences he would face. They also said there was no evidence suggesting an assault, saying it was his word against hers. Merlin said they had to pick her daughter up early from school again Feb. 27th because other students were making fun of her. Merlin said a meeting was held with Dr. David Pearce and school board member Mike Wooten to discuss the incident, during which they told the school leaders the administration at McGee’s Middle did not properly handle the incident.
On Feb. 28th, Merlin said McGee’s Middle administrators admitted the school resource officer had not filed a police report about the incident. They requested a report be filed and the incident investigated by law enforcement. Merlin said they were told there was not enough evidence to pursue any criminal charges.
“We found out the boy would be in same classroom with her again on Monday (March 2nd). She said she didn’t feel safe in same classroom, so I wanted to tell her teachers she felt unsafe, to be understanding and to express my concerns she would be in same classroom.”
On March 2nd, Merlin said her daughter arrived at school but feared going into the same classroom and sitting next to the boy. Instead she stayed in another classroom where she felt safe. “She was written up by her teacher for skipping class, even though four hours earlier I asked the principal to alert teachers she felt unsafe.”
Merlin said administrators expressed no concern or compassion for her 12 year-old child, including refusing to reassign her to a different classroom or separate her and the male and place them on different sides of the room if they had to remain in class together.
“In my opinion they failed. They chose to believe him over her. They did find the video, which proved she wasn’t lying. But they failed to provide a safe learning environment,” Merlin said. “I am so speechless over the situation. In this day and age they wouldn’t believe a girl who came to the office with ripped pants and a video. They found the video but still don’t believe her.”
Merlin says she has reported bullying to McGee’s Middle School administrators before but no action was ever taken. “They said it was normal child behavior. A boy can do this to another young girl and its okay. My daughter had to have her life turned upside down and he suffers no consequence for what he did.”
Merlin said she enrolled her daughter in another middle school this week and hopes things will be better. She wants other parents to know her story and her frustrations with Johnston County Schools and McGee’s Crossroads Middle. “My daughter wants her story heard and to protect other girls in that school.”
Johnston County Schools Chief of Staff and Communication Dolores Gill released a statement at 3:35pm Friday afternoon. “Johnston County Public Schools remains committed to providing a safe, supportive learning environment for all students. We take any and all concerns regarding student safety seriously and review each concern thoroughly. Due to student privacy laws, we are unable to comment on the specific circumstances of a student matter. We encourage parents to bring any concerns they have regarding their children’s safety to the attention of a school administrator, and those concerns will undergo thorough review.”
At 5:31pm Friday, Johnston County Schools requested we update their statement. “A parent reported concerns to school authorities who completely investigated and took action to protect students. District leadership also worked with school staff to address the parent’s concern. McGee’s Crossroads Middle School, as well as all schools and staff in Johnston County Public Schools, remains committed to providing a safe, supportive learning environment for all students.”
This story has been updated to include both responses from Johnston County Schools.