Fight fallout prompts administration to clarify discipline policy



On Dec. 8, a physical altercation took place among three students on a USD 373 bus heading toward Chisholm Middle School. The incident led to the USD 373 School Board approving a new section to the NHS student handbook at the Jan 23 board meeting. The major change is the addition of a discipline guidance chart that shows a list of possible infractions, the consequences and the reasoning behind the consequence.

“I added a matrix to the student handbook, just for more transparency, more clarity for students and for parents,” Principal Blake Smith said.

Freshman Makenna Hasenbank, the student who filmed the fight on the bus and received a two-day suspension, said that two girls started to yell at and hit a boy who had allegedly sexually harassed them.

Community members brought up NHS policies and procedures at a heated Dec. 12 board meeting addressing the administration’s response. These topics included filming a fight, the necessary action plan of an involved bus driver and student sexual assault allegations.

“When the boy of said incident walked on the bus there were four girls on that same bus that he had previously inappropriately touched and or sexually harassed … because of this incident my daughter has been suspended even though she was not a part of the altercation … by my daughter recording the incident she has created an unbiased witness in the form of a video,” mother Shayla Larson said during the public comments portion of the board meeting.

According to Zenlawfirm, 15 percent of sexual assaults happen in public places, with eight percent being on school property. According to Smith, when an allegation comes through, NHS involves the local police department and the investigation is pursued for the required time, whether it be weeks, months or more on account of sexual assaults occurring on the school grounds.

“When we get a report we’ll investigate,” Smith said. “We’ll get the police involved and there were steps taken to do all that when we got allegations coming through.”

Smith said NHS Administration was unable to comment about the incident at this time, due to concerns about the confidentiality of the students.

According to Moultrie News, it isn’t abnormal for physical fights to break out at schools. However, filming can exploit classmates and fuel the energy of a fight, turning it into a potentially dangerous incident.

“I just didn’t expect a suspension … they said it was because I recorded,” freshman Makenna Hasenbank said.

Hasenbank said that she was on the bus and decided to record for a friend who wanted to see the fight. Hasenbank didn’t expect the suspension that was given to her and believes she did not deserve that big of a punishment.

“I think it can be upsetting if a student gets in trouble and you don’t know the whole why … they’re not hearing the full story,” Smith said.

While many questions have arisen about the bus driver’s plan of action, former USD 373 employee Lenny Wild questions the reasoning behind the termination of his bus driving career.

“They told me I should’ve gone back to the high school and had the principal diffuse the situation, but I was halfway to Chisholm which was my destination,” Wild said. “I had seven or eight buses and 250 students waiting for me at Chisholm.”

Wild decided to keep driving the students to their destination despite the situation. This one decision, however, cost him a job that he has had for 12 years.

“Most times people get a warning … I’ve had kids throw a firecracker out the window, and they got written up, they don’t get kicked off the bus, they get a warning. I have eight minutes and 37 seconds which I did something wrong and [got] fired,” Wild said.

Much of this incident boils down to the sexual assault allegations that occurred before the fight. Fortunately, there are resources provided through the school that are easily accessible for victims of assault.

“Students who are going through an assault can talk to their counselors and/or social workers here at the school. They can get information on Safe Hope, which is an advocacy and outreach for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault … The more time that passes, the less detail that can be provided,” Assistant Principal Tiffany Stephey said.

The new version of the NHS student handbook can be found on the NHS website under quick links.