District: “Play fighting” cause of student injury

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A mother says her 10-year-old daughter was attacked at school, and the district is covering it up. The student was left with a cut 8.5 inches deep on her stomach.

It happened Monday in a bathroom at Dr. Howard Elementary. The district says six girls were just play fighting. This mother says there’s much more behind the story. Now, her daughter refuses to go back to class.

“This is an elementary school; this is not normal,” said the student’s aunt Shawnda Chitwood. Chitwood says her niece went to school just like any other day and never expected fellow students to attack her.

“We just know that there are other kids that have been bullying her.”

Chitwood says her niece told the teacher about that bullying, and that’s when things escalated.

“She just remembered running from the girls and they followed her in the bathroom and she remembers somebody pulling her out of the stall and she fell. She don’t remember anything after that.”

The district put the school on lockdown Monday for a student needing medical assistance. On Tuesday, the district said the student was hurt when “six girls were play-fighting in the restroom.” part of a statement reads, “The preliminary investigation found no weapon, nor any indication that another student caused the injury. The matter appears accidental rather than malicious.”

Michele Halenar’s grandson goes to school at Dr. Howard. She believes many parents were kept in the dark.

“If something like this is happening, they should be more… looking after these kids,” said Halenar.

Chitwood says the school district said her niece fell and cut herself. Chitwood believes there’s more to that story.

“We just want justice, you know, and we just wanna know what happened and we wana know why were there not enough adults to take action before it got this far.”

Chitwood says her family met with school leaders today. School officials told her the gash was caused by hitting the bathroom stall latch as she fell.

This investigation is now being handled by the Champaign Police Department. They could not share any additional information.

Parents, including family members of the student attended a PTA board meeting Tuesday evening at Dr. Howard. WCIA was at that meeting, and we will be bringing you updates.

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