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Mom: Son attacked on school bus

September 17, 2018
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From lower left, Eric Sorensen, Keenen Adkins and Stephanie Sprague display the hashtag family members created for continuing issues they are facing at home and school.

Keenen Adkins, 14, came home from school beaten and bruised with a broken tooth and a concussion as a result of bullying on his school bus Monday, according to Stephanie Sprague, his mother. To make matters worse, Sprague said Roseburg Public Schools is not taking responsibility for the situation.

“We’ve gone to the schools multiple times regarding bullying,” Sprague said, mentioning her younger daughters and niece, who have also sustained physical damage from bullying.

“We were told ‘There’s nothing we can do about it,’” Sprague said. “We are tired of being told there’s nothing they can do. It seems like this pattern that kids that fight back get in trouble, not the bullies.”

Roseburg High School Principal Jill Weber initially declined to comment on Friday, deferring to Robert Freeman, the acting interim superintendent. Freeman was working on a district response but was unavailable to talk Thursday and Friday. In an email he said to speak with Weber.

“I don’t want to speak directly to this incident,” Weber said. “It is something that we take seriously. It’s something that we do respond to quickly. As soon as we find out, we deal with it quickly.”

A student sitting next to the alleged assailant on the bus filmed the incident and then shared it with the student accused of bullying. The video was reportedly shared on Snapchat before a family friend of Sprague and Adkins made them aware of it.

“They were whispering and I knew something was going to happen, but I ended up falling asleep,” Adkins said. “After that I saw someone’s foot and I kind of knew it was his, and then he started hitting me so I kind of had to block, which I did. After that, it was just like three seconds, and then it was over. He just hit and kicked me in the head, then he walked off. He was yelling and stuff like that.”

The video appeared to show the student strike and kick Adkins several times while uttering several expletives.

Adkins said he refused to fight back during the short encounter to maintain a clean record so he can fulfill his dream of joining the military.

“He’s wanted to be in the Army since he was 3 years old,” said Kyle Vallotton, Adkins’ father. “I messaged him and told him I really proud of what he did because he just put his hands up to protect himself from getting hit.”

Not visible in the video, Adkins and his foster brother, Eric Sorenson, 14, described a senior from the high school stepping in and forcing the student off the bus. The bus driver let him back on the bus, but made him sit in the front.

Sprague said they pressed charges on Monday night.

While the bus company, First Student, has security videos, the school district did not respond to a records request Friday morning to see the video, and the company could not be reached for comment after multiple calls.

Adkins and Sorenson have not returned to school since Monday.

“This kid has been a bully to my son for four years,” Sprague said. “We brought it up with principals, counselors, and nothing has ever been done about it.”

Several officials from the school said they could neither confirm nor deny any reports or meetings with students and their families but Jill Weber said she was aware of an incident that occurred Monday.

Sprague said she reported the incident to the bus management company, the school, the police and the school board. She attended the regular school board meeting on Wednesday with Adkins, Sorenson, her mother-in-law and Adkins’ best friend, Hannah Center.

“We’re not the only victims, and I know that for a fact,” Center said, mentioning a few friends who had been suspended for responding to long-time bullies, or even attempted suicide. “As a community, we ask that it actually be taken care of. We need help.”

Center and Sorenson said they have both been victims of bullying at Roseburg Public Schools, as have their siblings and friends. Center said she went through four schools, was bullied at each, and has since left the district seeking relief.

While 49 states have legislation on bullying, it is not illegal.

Adkins and Sorenson were given a citation for taking part in an altercation on the school bus, but no one has been suspended.

“The principal said he’s (Adkins) not his student anymore, so there’s nothing he can do,” Sprague said. “The kid’s dad told me that it was my fault that my son got jumped because I called the school — and I want to know how his dad knew I called the school?”

Weber said RHS is registered with SafeOregon, a program to gives kids, parents, schools and their communities a way to report safety threats or potential acts of violence anonymously.

Sprague said before the school year started, during registration, she let administrators know of the issues her son had with the attacker in previous years, but nothing had been done in the two weeks school has been in session.

“Before he was arrested we’d asked that he not be allowed on the bus with Keenen, but the bus company said it was the school’s job to keep him off the bus if they wanted to keep him off the bus, and the school said it was the bus’s job,” Vallotton said. “They are making the family that got attacked make the extra effort instead of the family that had the kid that attacked him make the extra effort.”

Despite being sent to a different school, the bus Adkins rides home picks students up from three Roseburg schools, so they will ride the same bus no matter which school either student attends in the district.

According to Roseburg Public Schools’ bullying policy, last updated in 2015, all forms of bullying are “strictly prohibited,” as is retaliation against people who report or are thought to have reported incidents. It is up to the individual principals and superintendent to ensure this policy is followed.

“We are going to go (to school board meetings) with more people to make sure something does gets done and it doesn’t get pushed aside,” Sprague said. “I’m not willing to bury my son because of a bully. I’m not willing to do that because somebody won’t stand up and do their job.”

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