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Wendy Reuer, Published November 25 2013

Moorhead parent claims school officials mishandled assault

MOORHEAD – A parent is asking School District officials to re-examine how it handles reports of violence after she says her daughter was assaulted at the high school and the principal failed to notify her.

On Monday night, Natalie Smith Carlson told the Moorhead School Board that her teen daughter was assaulted Nov. 12 by a male student at Moorhead Senior High School.

“The attack was traumatic for her because of the pain she suffered,” Smith Carlson said Monday.

But a forced meeting with her attacker also was traumatic, Smith Carlson said. She said the principal failed to notify her of the incident and instead called a meeting between himself and the two students Nov. 13. She said her daughter could not speak during the meeting because she was too distraught.

After her daughter told her about the incident, Smith Carlson said they spoke with a police officer about the incident and it was clear her daughter “couldn’t face her attacker.”

Smith Carlson said her daughter filled out a student incident report and that the male student has a history of assault in school. She said that, according to the high school’s handbook, the school should have immediately notified her of the incident and that the student should have been suspended for three days.

“The student put his hands on my daughter and was not suspended for even one day,” Smith Carlson said. “It’s clear that the procedures were not followed, but what’s more clear is that the procedures are inadequate.”

Superintendent Lynne Kovash said she believes the male student was suspended for this incident. She said the situation “is still being examined.”

Amber Kracht, a fellow parent, attended the meeting to support the Smith Carlson family. Kracht said the male student put the girl in a headlock and shoved her to the floor. She said when Smith was able to run away, fellow students had to restrain the boy from following her.

“What is so upsetting about it to me is that (the student) was forced to relive or be re-victimized again the following day, forced to face the perpetrator without any support system whatsoever,” Kracht said. “It’s been several weeks with no action by the school district at this point.”

On Monday, Smith Carlson suggested several elements be added to the district’s policy for handling assaults. Those include:

-Sending a victim of assault to a school nurse;

-Contacting a victim’s advocate to speak with a victimized student;

-Administration should be vigilant about keeping parents informed

-Adding training for staff to deal with violence, and create effective measures that prevent victim-blaming.

Board Chairwoman Lisa Erickson said Monday that the board does not take action on items not on the agenda but administration will continue to assess the situation.

Principal Dave Lawrence attended Monday’s meeting but did not speak publicly.

He could not be reached for comment Monday night.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530