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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Harassment Incident Escalated into Fire bombing

Last Friday we reported that a Junior High School student was being harassed because his fathers were gay. Last night, the Davis Enterprise finally reported on the story, five days after we first broke the news. Of course, there are little details given in this article and it is noteworthy that the family was never interviewed.

The article describes an assembly held at the junior high school meant to educate the students about harassment. However, the family is angry that stronger disciplinary steps were not taken. Only a very small handful of students involved in the incident were punished in any formal way, moreover, the student has had to be pulled out of the school three times and he has now missed nearly four weeks of school. Tonight the school board will hear about the incident and make a determination as to what has been done and what further needs to be done.

The father appeared Tuesday night before the Davis City Council. In a disturbing escalation of the incident, the father described that the harassment leaked into the community from the schools. Their car was firebombed and burned to the ground on their driveway. Only quick action by their son allowed the family to avoid their entire house burning down.

According to the father, the police have been very slow to respond to this incident. They have made the determination that this was arson rather than an accident and they have identified a person of interest. But they have no suspects or arrests in an incident that occurred now over a month ago. Nor have they contacted outside agencies such as the ATF or FBI to aid in their investigation.

At this point there are two separate issues--one is the continuing harassment of a junior high school student on campus that is a matter that needs to be addressed by the school district and the second is the escalation of this matter in the form of a criminal act of arson. The family feels neither have been treated with due diligence.

The initial response that I witnessed by the school district at the Human Relations Commission meeting was disturbing because they appeared from my perspective more interested in damage control than in dealing with this problem. Chief among them was the climate coordinator whose response to the family was basically that Davis was better in this regard to other school districts and he mentioned specifically West Sacramento. That may be true, but a family going through something like this does not want to hear that type of rhetoric, they want to know how this is going to be prevented from happening again.

At this point, the school district is telling the family that the student needs to be in school, but family fears for the safety of their son. Hopefully most of this can be resolved tonight at the school board meeting.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting