Two white girls, ages 10 and 11, are facing assault charges, including one who’s also facing a hate crime charge, after a vicious beating of a 10-year-old black girl on the school bus.
Police in Gouverneur, N.Y., a small town not far from the Canadian border, arrested the two white girls Monday following a two-week probe after the alleged victim’s parents filed a police report Sept. 10 saying their daughter had been beaten in an assault that involved “racially motivated language,” CNN reports.
According to the New York Times, the black girl’s hair was pulled out, and she suffered a black eye and bruised knee.
After a police investigation the two white girls, ages 10 and 11, were arrested Monday and charged with one count of second-degree aggravated harassment.
The 11-year-old girl also was charged with assault and a third-degree hate crime. The hate crime charge is a felony, Gouverneur police Sgt. Darren Fairbanks said.
“The loss of civility in this world is being played out in the realm of 10- and 11-year-olds,” school Superintendent Lauren French told the Times. “There is no shade of gray in this. This event was wrong on all levels.”
Police also arrested the 28-year-old school bus monitor, charging her with three counts of endangering the welfare of a minor for not interfering in the fight.
The town of Gouverneur is 95 percent white, 1 percent black, according to the Times.
The fight and subsequent charges even drew the attention of New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who issued a statement, per the Times:
“That this was allegedly perpetrated by her own classmates, on a school bus with an adult monitor present, makes this incident even more shocking and troubling,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.
Mr. Cuomo, who noted in his statement that the episode had lasted 20 minutes, said that he was directing the state Division of Human Rights to open an investigation. He also said he had asked the Hate Crimes Task Force to assist the local authorities.
However, at least one anti-bullying advocate who spoke with the Times warned against overreacting, especially when incidents involve young children.
Ross Ellis, founder and chief executive of Stomp Out Bullying.org, told the Times the arrested girls should get counseling and that everyone needs to sit down together to try to get to the root of the violence.
“Parents are out for blood,” Ellis said. “I had a mother call me who wanted a 3-year-old on the playground arrested. I get that you don’t want your child beaten up, but it’s got to stop on both ends.
“It’s a terrible thing that happened, but make it a teachable moment.”