Beaten girl suffers school discipline
Victim, 12, suspended after attack
STORY SUMMARY »
HILO » When Waiakea Intermediate School student Evelyn Higgins had her head bashed against a wall by another girl two weeks ago, the incident followed a nasty exchange of words. The attacker called Evelyn a "f-- haole." Evelyn called the attacker a "slut."
Evelyn, 12, had a gash in her head closed with 10 surgical staples.
Tomorrow, she'll have to sit through a day of in-school suspension somewhere on the school grounds for using the word "slut."
Her attacker also will be punished by the school, but the school won't say how. Police are also investigating, but juvenile court cases remain secret. Whether using a racial slur makes this a hate crime might never be made public.
COURTESY JEFF HIGGINS
This Nov. 15 cell phone photo shows the gash Evelyn Higgins, 12, suffered during an assault at Waiakea Intermediate School in Hilo.
FULL STORY »
HILO » On Nov. 15, schoolgirl Evelyn Higgins, 12, suffered bruises and a gash in her head in an attack by a group of girls.
One schoolmate grabbed her hair and hit her head against a wall four times. The gash required 10 surgical staples to close.
Tomorrow Waiakea Intermediate School will formally respond to the attack by punishing the victim.
That's when Evelyn will receive one day of in-school suspension for calling one of the girls a "slut," according to her father and stepmother.
Punishment will also be meted out to the girl who slammed Evelyn's head against a wall, said Evelyn's father, Jeff Higgins.
Principal Maureen Duffy wouldn't disclose the other girl's punishment, but it will not be expulsion, which is what the family wants, Higgins said.
Duffy said the school has completed an investigation and has taken "appropriate action" but declined to discuss details, citing "confidentiality."
Higgins said he and Evelyn's stepmother, Julia Stapp, will sit with Evelyn all day during the suspension tomorrow.
The attack and subsequent discipline serve as bitter fruit for Evelyn and for Higgins' other three children, who thought that they had found a peaceful home.
Higgins said he only recently gained legal custody of the four children from their mother, who moved frequently and had the youngsters in a dozen different schools. Evelyn and her siblings were living in New York City before coming to Hawaii about four months ago.
Things went well at first.
Evelyn made the honor roll and won placement in an advanced math class. She initially was friends with the girls who eventually attacked her.
"The first three months were fine," Evelyn said.
Then the same group of girls started making fun of her blond eyebrows, and bad feelings escalated. The day before the attack, she told her father, "Don't be surprised (if something happens) because these girls have been threatening me."
The next day, a "pack" of up to 14 girls followed Evelyn around.
"My friends were terrified for me," Evelyn said.
Higgins believes the attack was racially motivated because the attacker used the phrase "f—— haole."
Evelyn said she snapped and insulted one of the other girls after three days of being insulted by them.
A male teacher pulled the girls apart.
Jeff Higgins, waiting in the school parking lot, recalls the call on his cell phone from the principal: "We have Evelyn. She's hurt, but she's OK. There's been an incident. The paramedics are on the way."
When Higgins saw his daughter, she had blood spattered on her clothing and books.
Duffy said she and the vice principal investigated the case as "harassment," defined in Hawaii Administrative Rules as including hitting and using racial slurs.
Police Lt. Randall Medeiros said the officer assigned to Waiakea Intermediate initially classified the case as misdemeanor assault, but Medeiros raised it to a felony when he saw the extent of Evelyn's injuries.
Roseann Gaylord, whose daughter is a friend of Evelyn, said her daughter was threatened by the same girls because of her friendship with Evelyn.
But she said nothing like this has ever happened before. "Waiakea has a good reputation. It's a very good school," she said.
Duffy said children sometimes hear "messages" in popular music and media that are "not always the most respectful or tolerant of others.
"The way they respond is not always appropriate," she said.