Mom says her son was attacked on Fairfax Co. school bus, alleges false report; police defend their account

Yellow school bus for kids shot close up at the front text and windshield(Getty Images/iStockphoto/Garrett Aitken)

The mother of a Fairfax County, Virginia, middle school student said her son was the victim of a beating by another student on a county school bus last fall. A police report said her 13-year-old son was the perpetrator.

Sandra Barksdale accused the school resource officer of filing a “false report” in the case.

At a news conference Tuesday outside Herndon Middle School, Barksdale told reporters that the attack on her son, an eighth grade student, happened Sept. 20, 2019.

She said he was hit repeatedly in the head and neck, and that the blows from the other student sitting behind him were so hard that her son suffered a concussion.

Officials with the Fairfax County NAACP said that Barksdale tried repeatedly to come to some kind of arrangement to get her son back into school, but that she didn’t feel safe placing him back at Herndon Middle School after the incident.

“We are here today to demand that the school supply the appropriate classes” to Barksdale’s son, said Sean Perryman, president of the NAACP of Fairfax County.

“We are also asking that the officer involved apologize, and that he be removed as an SRO if it is shown that the video and the SRO report do not match up,” Perryman said.

Dr. Sujatha Hampton, with the Fairfax County NAACP, viewed the school bus camera video of the incident last October together with Barksdale. Hampton said the video differed wildly from the account in the police report filed by Officer Murn.

According to Hampton, Barksdale’s son was hit from behind repeatedly. “At no time does he get up or fight back,” she said.

“The assault went on for a long time — it was not a quick punch, rather it was a protracted beating,” Hampton said.

But, in the police report filed by Officer Murn, where the names are redacted, the account includes a description of two students exchanging blows.

The report, dated Oct. 9 but detailing the Sept. 20 incident, states: “They grabbed each other and wrestled until the bus began turning around. At this point they had stopped fighting and they sat back in their seats.”

The report also said that four students were interviewed about the incident and that one student — Barksdale’s son — challenged the other to a fight using the N-word.

According to the account in the report, other students said one involved in the fight bullied students on a regular basis and that on that day, “it was [name redacted’s] turn.”

The police report states that Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kathy Stott had been contacted but that she advised she would not prosecute the case.

Hampton said Barksdale tried to get home instruction for her son, and that the mother was reluctant to let him return to Herndon Middle School. Hampton called it the school system’s “failure” that Barksdale’s son “did not receive an education for nearly the entirety of his eighth grade year.”

Barksdale had been told by one Fairfax County administrator to stop focusing on what happened in September, Hampton said, but that the report remains in a file on her son’s record.

“How do you move away from that and trust the school system?” Hampton asked.

Fairfax County Public Schools spokesman John Torre said in a statement, “The school investigated the incident and assigned appropriate consequences under the SR&R [FCPS student discipline policy].”

Torre also wrote that “Herndon police investigated and determined it was a school matter and no criminal charges were recommended.”

Herndon police Chief Maggie DeBoard vigorously defended the school resource officer’s account of the incident, saying Officer Murn had been falsely accused of mishandling the report.

“I could not be more outraged and disgusted about the false narrative being perpetuated by Ms. Barksdale and the NAACP,” DeBoard said.

The police chief alleged that Barksdale and the NAACP were intent on an agenda to remove SROs from the school system.

DeBoard said the officer not only reviewed the school bus video, but also conducted what she called a “thorough investigation.” She said the facts showed that Barksdale’s son started a fight with another student “after inciting him to fight, calling him several derogatory names, including racial slurs.”

DeBoard said all the witnesses interviewed claimed that Barksdale’s son bullied the other student.

But, the police chief conceded that she had not seen the school bus camera video.

“We don’t have access to that. That is maintained by the school,” DeBoard said.

Challenged as to how she could be so confident in Officer Murn’s account without having seen the school bus video herself, DeBoard said there were as many as eight witnesses interviewed and that their accounts were all very similar as to the role Barksdale’s son had in the incident.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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