Parents express distrust in school district after student was hurt

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Parents are putting the school district under fire saying they didn’t do enough to prevent a 10-year-old from getting hurt.

The pictures of the child’s injuries are graphic. Her family says the fifth grader was attacked in the bathroom on Monday. District leaders have a different explanation of what happened. On Tuesday night, people crowded into a PTA meeting with questions for the district that largely went unanswered.

WCIA learned at that meeting that there was a lapse in school policy. At Dr. Howard it’s a rule that only two students are allowed in the bathroom at a time and they have to be supervised. The district said there were six students involved and nobody was watching them. At the meeting, a district representative said they will be readdressing and reinforcing those rules.

Shawnda Chitwood’s 10-year-old niece Cora is recovering from the injury she got while at the school. The day after it happened, questions still remain unanswered. She asks, “What happened to her? We don’t know what she was cut with.”

Police are still investigating what happened. She was sent to the hospital and got 15 stitches by her abdomen. The district says she was hurt after a play fight in a bathroom. They released a statement on Tuesday saying in part, “The preliminary investigation found no weapon, nor any indication that another student caused the injury. The matter appears accidental rather than malicious.”

The school was put on soft lockdown and the district sent an email to parents with the alert of a student needing medical assistance. But many parents say that notification cast a shadow of doubt and distrust into how the district handled the situation. Toni Jackson says, “I wanted more information regarding that but nothing came that night.”

Her son goes to Dr. Howard. She says, “Information was not released in a timely fashion and not enough information was released. It looks like a cover up.”

She and dozens of other parents are left to speculate what happened when their kids were at school and subsequently worry about their own kids’ safety. Jackson says, “The issues are still fuzzy at the end of the day. There are a lot of questions and heightened emotions.”

The principal and district representatives were at Tuesday night’s PTA meeting to hear parents’ concerns. People wanted to know why more details and updates were not released by the school sooner and why the safety policy was not enforced that day.

Jackson says, “What good is a policy if you have no one to enforce it? That a promise but it’s also a broken promise.” The district didn’t provide specific answers regarding that. “Be transparent, act quickly and reach out” says Jackson. “When there are questions they should reach out to the parents as much as humanly possible.”

Chitwood has one last request of the school district. She says, “You need to put more actions toward the things you are telling us. You’re wanting us to trust you with your children and we cannot do that.”

At the end of the meeting the school district representatives said they would bring the information and suggestions they gathered at the meeting to the administration so they can come up with a response and plan for the future.

The district also said it was open to creating a task force to address issues that stemmed from this incident.

Counselors weren’t available on Tuesday. They will be at Dr. Howard on Wednesday.

This PTA meeting was planned several months ago to address safety procedures in general. The principal talked about fire drills, severe weather protocol and lockdowns. In soft lockdowns, like the one on Monday, everyone is kept inside of their classroom.

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