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After attack leads to brain injury, school shields bully from police

Timothy Maybin, father of bullied 9th grader, talks with 9 On Your Side investigator Valerie Cavazos

After attack leads to brain injury, school shields bully from police

CREATED Feb 16, 2012 - UPDATED: Feb 16, 2012

Reporters:  Valerie Cavazos and Forrest Carr

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - She was beaten badly enough in the hallway of Catalina Magnet School to require medical attention.  Her school medical files note a concussion and a traumatic brain injury.  But no one was ever prosecuted.   According to an official report, administators refused to call police when the suspect returned to school.  Later, according to the parents, a second bully threatened to kill the victim.   Now her parents have pulled her out of school.

9 On Your Side has been inundated with emails from concerned parents, after our 9 On Your Side investigation into bullying last week found that four Tucson students have killed themselves this school year amid cyberbullying.  Many of those writing KGUN9 have asked us to look into their children's cases.

Wendy and Timothy Maybin were among them.   They contacted 9 On Your Side to tell us about their daughter, a 9th grader at Catalina who is visually impaired.  Last Fall, their daughter told them that other students were threatening her.  

"She was texting me and calling me from school," Wendy Maybin told 9 On Your Side.  "This person's coming up to her and saying they were going to jump  her."

The parents reported those threats to administrators and pleaded for protection.  According to Timothy Maybin, administrators did do something.  They sat down for a little chat with all involved.   "They called a mediation.  And they said everything was good between everybody."

Not so.   Tim says that one of the students planned an ambush.  "And when she walked out of the lunchroom, it was on.  They had everybody in place."

According to official reports obtained by 9 On Your Side, one assailant ran up to the victim, pulled her down to the floor by her hair, punched and kicked her, and stomped on her glasses.

The victim's medical records, also obtained by KGUN9 News, reflect a traumatic brain injury, a concussion, and PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But brain injury or not, initially no one from the school called police.  "I said, 'where are the cops?" Tim told KGUN9 News.  "And she just said, 'Well, we just wanted to wait and see what you wanted to do.'  I said, 'Dial 911 right now."

But that did not happen.  In fact, the school waited two more days before reporting the incident to Tucson police.

According to police documents obtained by 9 On Your Side, the investigating officer told administrators he had enough to charge the assailant.  He asked assistant principal David Berry to call police when the suspect came back to campus.

But when the assailant returned, Berry refused to make the call.   When the investigating officer learned of this later, he was not happy, and demanded an explanation from administrators.   According to the officer's report, Berry explained that his refusal was for "the betterment of the school."  Principal Rex Scott backed him up.

Eventually police did arrest the suspect.   Then the case went to prosecutors.  But prosecutors declined to take it forward.

Erica Cornejo, a deputy county attorney in the office of prosecutor Barbara LaWall, sent the Maybins a letter informing them that the office was declining to prosecute.  The explanation for that was written -- no kidding -- in Latin.   The letter read in part, "The reason(s) for declining this prosecution are:  DE-MINIMIS CASE; NO FURTHER ACTION NECESSARY." 

De what?  KGUN9 looked it up.  "De minimis" turns out to be a Latin phrase and legal term basically  meaning that it's a small case, and is going nowhere.

The letter contained no translation of that phrase, nor did it contain any further explanation.  But it did invite the Maybins to call with any questions.

9 On Your Side contacted the prosecutor's office to ask what is so small about a beating that caused a brain injury and concussion.   Chief criminal deputy attorney Kellie Johnson told KGUN9 News that when the case was first filed, the medical information provided to prosecutors at that time indicated that the victim's injury was not serious.  Johnson said the office is in contact with the parents now, with a view toward determining, based on the latest medical information, whether further legal action is warranted.  So, the door to prosecution is still open, at least in theory.  In practice, prosecutors might have a tough time laying hands on the suspect, who has moved out of state.

But the situation for the Maybins' daughter has not improved.  The Maybins told KGUN9 News on Thursday that even though the attacker no longer roams the halls at Catalina Magnet School, the attacker's friends do.  According to the Maybins, two days ago one of those bullies threatened their daughter's life.  In reaction, the Maybins pulled their daughter out of class.

Principal Rex Scott initially agreed to meet with the Maybins and with 9 On Your Side to discuss this case further.  But on Thursday morning, he backed out.  The district then sent us an email explaining that the interview was forbidden by district policy and by a federal law known as FERPA.  

FERPA forbids the release student records held in the student's official files wthout parental consent.   The district statement was not clear on what district policy forbids the principal from talking.

In any case, KGUN9 News is aware of no law or policy that prohibits Scott or anyone else in the district from explaining how shielding the accused bully from police promotes the "betterment of the school."  9 On Your Side's inquiry into this matter will continue.

Clarifications:  An earlier version of this story stated that all four suicides had occurred in the Tucson Unified School District.  After TUSD disputed that statement, KGUN9 rechecked the police statement on which our report had relied, and found that the officer had not specified that the Tucson suicides had occurred in TUSD.  KGUN9 withdraws that statement, and regrets the error.

Also, earlier version of this story stated that principal Scott cited FERPA and district policy as the reasons for canceling an interview with KGUN9 News.  Technically, that was incorrect.  Scott canceled the interview and told KGUN9 News that we would hear the reasons from a TUSD spokesperson. A district spokesperson then contacted us by email, citing FERPA and district policy as reported above.  Since these reports aired, the principal reversed his decision not to speak publicly on this issue.  Our updated report can be found at this link.