ALEXANDRIA — Alexandria Police Chief Matt Ellis has confirmed that his department is conducting an investigation of an assault Tuesday on a student at Alexandria-Monroe Jr.-Sr. High School.
Though the reason for the attack on the student, whose identity is shielded under federal privacy laws, is unknown, Ellis and principal Tom Johns have not ruled out the possibility that it may be related to the victim’s perceived sexual orientation.
“This is a big deal. We don’t want to put out anything prematurely,” Ellis said.
“At this point in time, we don’t have evidence pointing to it being discriminatory about sexual orientation,” Johns said.
The victim formerly attended Alexandria-Monroe but last year attended school in another district before returning this school year, he said.
“You hate when these things happen,” he said. “It makes you sick to your stomach.”
After being examined by the school nurse, the victim was taken by his mother to a hospital in Anderson for further examination, Johns said. He said he has not heard back from the student’s mother about the extent of the injuries.
“I can tell you the student was in my office afterwards and was able to have a conversation,” he said.
The assault was started in the school’s locker room by a 10th-grader who has been disciplined and faces further investigation through the police department, Johns said. However, an additional unspecified number of 10th-graders also may have been involved in the attack, he said.
“We had some other kids involved, and we’re trying to figure out what their roles were,” he said.
Johns said some students made a cellphone video of the attack.
“It’s a shame because the first instinct is not to help a victim but to pick up a telephone and videotape it,” he said.
Johns stressed that all students at Alexandria-Monroe have the right to an education and to be treated equally.
In addition to teaching tolerance and inclusiveness, he said, the school also offers support groups and access to mental health professionals to help LGBTQ students.
“I feel like we have an open dialogue with all of our students,” he said. “We try to do everything we can to teach tolerance and acceptance. At the end of the day, the parents have the responsibility to teach open mindedness and acceptance.”
Alexandria Community Schools Superintendent Melissa Brisco said it’s the district’s goal to produce students who are kind, empathetic and open.
“It’s not just one thing that we do, we do a number of things to support our students to support the climate and the culture in our schools,” she said. “Just like anything else, it’s a work in progress.”