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DJ's Story

Dear Brandi,

My husband and I read your letter re: your son being robbed at knife point and your frustrations at the system's apathy.  Our son was attacked in his class on February 23rd.  He was beaten so badly the school nurse was afraid of facial fractures and possible brain trauma and sent him to the hospital via ambulance.  DJ never threw a punch.  He and his attacker were given a 10 day suspension for fighting.  I protested and said that there was no fight.  It was assault and battery and my son should not be punished.

This is the story.  My son is 15 and in the 9th grade.  There was a substitute teacher for art class on this day.  To my son's knowledge, there was no lesson plan and the students were using this time as they pleased.  DJ was writing a letter.  Throughout the class, the other student (RW) was harassing DJ and others by breaking pencils and throwing them at the other kids in class. Sometime during class the substitute teacher was walking around class and asked DJ if everything was alright.  DJ complained that RW was throwing pencils at him, and could the substitute get him to stop.  The sub said that if he saw RW throw pencils, he would make him leave the class.

Yeah, right.  DJ knew the sub would do nothing.  About 10 minutes before the end of class DJ had had enough.  He stands up, turns around and asks RW what his problem was, thinking this would cause an argument and ONE of them would be sent from the class.  Without warning, RW punches DJ in the face.  DJ falls back against a desk.  RW grabs him behind his neck as he's falling and continues punching DJ in the face as he falls to the floor.  (DJ said, "Mom, after the first punch, my eyes were closed for the rest of it).  RW jumps on top of DJ and continues to pummel him with his fists.  When his hands got tired, he grabs hold of DJ by the hair in both hands and proceeds to kick DJ in the head until two students pull RW off of DJ.  Nobody came to DJ's aid. Even afterwards he laid on the floor for a minute then pulled himself to a chair.  (I'm crying as I type this ...). 

  There is a policeman on campus who took pictures of DJ and, the next day, maybe I wasn't suppose to see the file left on his desk, because when I saw a bit of the picture where I recognized DJ's shirt, I asked if that was our son. The policeman said no, and I pulled the picture out all the way and said, "Yes this is!"  My God, Brandi, he looked like he had been hit by a truck.  They had a picture of the room, too, and there was blood everywhere.

Where was the sub, you ask ... like us and everyone else we have told this story to?  He was up against the wall and overheard to say, "What do I do? What do I do?"  It was another student who contacted the office to notify the principal and nurse to come to the class.

Fortunately for DJ, X-rays and CT came out negative.  He is recovering from a perforated eardrum.  Unfortunately, DJ doesn't bruise easily and he had no bruising to show for his beating. 

We have retained an attorney.  That's the only way to obtain the school's information regarding the situation.  We have been told by the policeman that no charges can be filed on RW until his investigation is complete.  He is suggesting aggravated assault, etc. and the kid should be sent away.

As I said earlier, our son was given a 10-day suspension also.  These 10 days are considered unexcused absences and any work made up will be graded at 69%. Failing.  DJ has ADD.  This information was as damaging to his mental state as the beating was to his body.  It takes so much energy to keep DJ pumped up and motivated.  Administration says that DJ was the start of the "fight" when he got up from his seat and asked RW what his problem was.  None of this would have happened if DJ had remained in his seat.  We argue that RW had the choice to use his words (just like we drill into our preschoolers heads from day one) and continue an argument, or to throw the first punch.  He made the wrong choice.  RW didn't start a fight because nobody was fighting back, which then made him an attacker.

I now have the task of writing to the Superintendent and probably the School Board, as I read you have done.  Wish me luck.  I understand your frustrations.  They ask us what we want.  I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WANT.  I want DJ vindicated, but in what way?  If all they understand is money, then so be it. We don't want it diminished to that level.  We hope to set a precedence for other parents to use as a tool.  We hope this information helps others.

We came on-line looking for someone to be an advocate for us as we go into a meeting with the teachers regarding revising DJ's IEP.  This is another area where we don't know what we want nor how much power we have.  Florida seems to be behind the times in this area.  Thank you for the wealth of information!

Email Erin, Dj's mom at


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