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November 4, 2011

Video shows Chillicothe teen bashed in classroom

Chillicothe--A gay 15-year-old was attacked in his classroom on October 17. His assailant was suspended and faces the possibility of felony assault charges.

The attack was captured on a cell phone video camera and posted to Facebook and YouTube.

The victim’s mother, Rebecca Collins, was interviewed by WSYX Channel 6 news in Columbus and provided a running commentary to the video, noting that the other student waited for her son and then attacked him. Her son, who did not want to be named, tries to get away repeatedly before being knocked down and pummeled.

The teen’s teeth were chipped and he may have suffered a concussion. Prosecutors instructed the Ross County sheriff’s department to get the boy’s medical records to see if the attack qualified for felony charges.

The student who attacked the gay youth was suspended for three days, and the girl who recorded the incident was also suspended. The principal of Union-Scioto High School, James Osborne, said that the assailant’s suspension is being examined and may be increased.

According to the gay teen, his attacker posted a comment on one of his pictures on Facebook two days before the attack, saying, “Check out the definition of a fag.” He did not, however, say anything about his victim’s sexual orientation during the attack.

School officials say that they are taking the video and the comment on the picture into account in their ongoing investigation. Their preliminary investigation, which resulted in the three-day suspension, did not indicate that the freshman’s sexual orientation was a motivating factor in the assault.

Ross County prosecutor Matt Schmidt said that his office is weighing whether to file assault or felonious assault charges, but notes that, despite Collins’ insistence that the attack was a hate crime, the state of Ohio does not include sexual orientation in its hate crime statutes, so there would be no enhancement of the assault charges regardless of that motivation.

The school district has a policy barring bullying, but the policy does not include sexual orientation specifically. When the attack happened in a classroom, the teacher was outside monitoring the halls during class change, as teachers in the school are required to do.

Ohio law requires bullying policies in schools, and State Rep. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood has introduced a bill to enumerate categories in the Ohio anti-bullying legislation, including sexual orientation.

“All students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity have the right to a safe school and education,” said Equality Ohio executive director Ed Mullen. “Students should not fear verbal harassment, cyber-bullying, or physical assault in our public schools.”

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