MECKLENBURG COUNTY, VA (WWBT) - A high school student in Mecklenburg County faces felony robbery and malicious wounding charges after a fight with a middle school student on a school bus.
According to Mecklenburg County School Superintendent Paul Nichols, the juvenile, who is not being named, is also serving a 10-day suspension for the incident that happened on October 5.
“We have a no tolerance policy,” Nichols said. “We are always looking to enforce those policies.”
Justin Writtenberry, 12, of La Crosse, suffered a broken nose and a concussion during the fight.
This happened one day after Writtenberry received a “positive behavior” award from Park View Middle School for helping stop a bullying situation.
“A kid was being picked on and he was in the bathroom crying,” Writtenberry said. “Another student and I walked him through the steps of how to feel better and so it wouldn’t happen to him.”
Nichols said the Oct. 5 incident was recorded on a school bus camera. The school board viewed that video during a closed-door meeting Monday night.
During the public comment session of the regularly scheduled board meeting, Writtenberry, his mother and cousin spoke about the incident.
"Since this happened I've been in pain, I've felt hurt, sad and angry," Writtenberry said.
He delivered his comments less than 12 hours after going through surgery for his broken nose.
"[It started when] he stuck his hand in my personal space and said do something to my hand," Writtenberry said.
The middle schooler said he didn't want to fight but claims when the high schooler took his glasses he fought back.
"I remember him snatching my glasses and I went to retrieve them and then he hit me and that's when things went down," Writtenberry said.
Sheriff R.W. “Bobby Hawkins” Jr. said based on video from the bus cameras, Writtenberry threw several punches before the high schooler engaged in the fight; but Writtenberry said he threw punches after his glasses were taken.
The result of that beating left him with a concussion and a broken nose.
"I was upset,” Writtenberry said. “It was very painful, and I could feel my face swelling up and I couldn't open my eyes as much as I should have been able to. One student said she almost passed out because of all the blood on the seats.”
"He was in pain,” said Midred Henrick, Justin’s mother. “He doesn't want to ride the bus anymore, he doesn't want to go back to school. He wakes up in the middle of the night crying and fighting in his sleep."
While all of this unfolded, Writtenberry claims the bus driver didn’t stop, but asked some of the other students to help.
"A certified nursing assistant (CAN) student got me paper towels and cleaned up the blood," Writtenberry said.
“The school bus driver should have stopped and sought attention,” Hendrick said. “The child that did this to my son showed just how violent he could be, yet he was allowed to continue to ride on that bus putting other children at risk."
Hendrick added she was made aware of the situation when her son texted her about what happened.
"It's very scary and it's unacceptable,” Hendrick said. “In the age of technology that we live in, that bus driver may not have been able to use her cell phone, but she has a two-way radio. Someone at the school administration or school bus shop should have contacted me."
Nichols said a radio call did go out to administrators, but because of a bad signal the transmission wasn’t clear.
“When a child’s face is swelling and they have a huge knot immediately on their head, and they’re bleeding profusely to seek emergency assistance for them,” Hendrick said.
Nichols said board members will review the protocol for situations like these and urge bus drivers to call 911 whenever there is a fight.
"I do want a revised handbook for if something were to happen like this," Writtenberry said.
“We need to come together,” Hendrick said. “We need to speak out so that the school system knows what's going on so they can change things."
Nichols said the two students will ride on different buses as a result of this incident. The investigation is ongoing.