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EARLIER: Teens beaten at skate park

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Mother said incident stemmed from bullying at school

By Lisa King

A recent fight at the skate park in downtown Shelbyville erupted from a long-running dispute and left one teenager with severe head wounds.

Barbara Morgan of Shelbyville said her teen-aged son, as well as her nephew, were both beaten by three other teenagers on Sept. 13.

Morgan said she took her son to the Jewish Hospital Shelbyville, where he underwent some tests. Though not all results are complete, she believes he is okay.

Information from authorities about the alleged beating and events surrounding it is sketchy.

Shelbyville Police Chief Robert Schutte said there are three suspects in the incidents. All three are juveniles and cannot be named.

"There have not been any arrests made yet, but the prosecution process has started at the county attorney's office," he said.

Shelby County Attorney Hart Megibben said he was not at liberty to discuss the situation.

"Because the allegations involve juveniles, state law prohibits me from discussing any potential prosecution publicly," he said.

Morgan says her son is a victim of bullying, and she fears retaliation.

She said the whole thing started in June at the Shelby County Fair, where Morgan's son and nephew got into an argument with three other high school students. The argument got loud, and they were asked to leave the fairgrounds, she said.

When school resumed in August, the dispute continued to escalate, and Morgan said there was an attack at Shelby County High School before the altercation at the skatepark.

"There was a threat made at school in front of other students," she said. "They said, 'We'll get them in the skate park.'"

Sometime in the week before Sept. 13, these students had a confrontation in the school lobby. Punches allegedly were thrown before the crowd was dispersed.

Superintendent James Neihof said, in a prepared statement, that school officials were not aware of any threats to the students before the fight that took place in the lobby.

"There had not been any reports by students about being threatened or bullied, otherwise we would have addressed them and followed proper procedures to provide counseling or disciplinary measures," he said.

Neihof added that disciplinary action has been taken against those involved, yet only one actually hit a classmate.

SCHS Principal Eddie Oakley, in a prepared statement, said, "It is sad and unfortunate that any of our students engaged in a physical confrontation at the skate park.

"But we are doing all we can in regards to providing conflict resolution and character development information in partnership with parents to help their students make good decisions."

Morgan said she was upset with school personnel for not trying to diffuse the situation.

"I hope the local high school will acknowledge where the chain of command failed these two young men," she said, adding that she didn't think Oakley took the situation seriously enough. "This craziness and bullying at school has got to stop.

Neihof said he has every confidence in Oakley, who he said has taken an active, personal role in supporting positive behavior.

"I feel confident in the supervision that is ongoing and the strong leadership under Mr. Oakley," he said.

School Resource Officer Tina Johnson said that on the whole, there is not a lot of bullying going on at the high school.

"We have a good school here, and I wouldn't want parents to think it is unsafe for their children here," she said. "It breaks my heart to think a child comes to school and is being bullied."

Johnson said in this case the boys involved "just don't like each other."

She encourages any student who is being picked on to come and talk to her.

"The only way I can help them is if they come and tell me about it," she said. "My door is always open, and kids can always come and talk to me."

Morgan said that the principal assured her that there would be teachers at their doors at every class change and that the tense atmosphere surrounding the lobby would be taken care of as well.

"No one can explain why the original threat was seemingly ignored and the parents were not notified that certain children's specific names were included in the threat," Morgan said.

She praised Shelby County Parks and Recreation for having a video surveillance system installed.

"I want to say a special thanks to Chris [Rigsby], the park ranger, who worked really hard to get the parents a video copy of what happened to the boys," she said.

She added that the video was hard to watch. Because of the ongoing investigation, the video has not been made available to The Sentinel-News.

"What is even more astounding is the relatives and/or friends of the attackers were watching and jumping and even clapping while those poor boys are getting punched and thrown to the ground and doing nothing to help them," she said.

Parks and Recreation Director Clay Cottongim said he is glad he had the surveillance system installed.

"This is the worst thing we have caught on tape, but we have also detected some vandalism," he said. "The cameras are deterring a lot of problems because people know they are there.