Isaiah Wooding, 16, a sophomore at Penn Hills High School, says what upsets him most is "the pain it's caused my mother."
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Margaret Wooding said she has been more than patient with the Penn Hills School District over the years as she has reported students bullying and harassing her son Isaiah, 16, who has cerebral palsy.
But after an incident Friday at Penn Hills High School, captured on video and posted on social media, in which Isaiah was kicked in the chest and knocked to the ground while other students laughed, Ms. Wooding wants action.
“I want to press charges on the boy who kicked my son in the chest. I also want something done to the one who posted it on Facebook and recorded it. And I want something done so this never happens to anyone’s kid again,” Ms. Wooding said.
She also wants her son’s attacker expelled so that Isaiah can feel safe there.
In the video, Isaiah can be seen rounding a corner after which he is immediately kicked in the chest by another student and knocked to the ground.
The video hit social media late Friday, prompting Penn Hills superintendent Nancy Hines to issue a statement over the weekend saying she was “deeply concerned and saddened” by what was shown on the video and that the district was investigating.
As of Monday, Ms. Hines said in another statement that the incident was in the hands of the Penn Hills police and that the district did “not expect to release anything more on the matter.”
Penn Hills police Chief Howard Burton said his department is working with school officials to identify the student responsible for the assault. That student will face criminal charges.
“It’s an assault. And it involved not just the actor kicking him, but the other students standing around laughing and taking videos,” the chief said.
While the bystanders likely would not face criminal charges, they could be subject to school discipline, Chief Burton said.
The chief said it appears the assault took place in the cafeteria and its location behind a pillar may have made it difficult for adults in charge to see it.
“It seemed like they were just waiting for this kid to come around,” Chief Burton said.
Ms. Wooding said it’s clear to her that her son was set up.
“This was all planned and this was orchestrated. They knew what they were going to do,” Ms. Wooding said.
“My son is taunted every day when he is in that school. Isaiah doesn’t really have any friends and he tries to make friends. Kids like that they act like they have the intention of being friends and their intention is really to humiliate him and tease him and not to engage in friendship with him,” Ms. Wooding said.
She said she has complained frequently to school officials who have told her that Isaiah “needs to realize the kids don’t want to be bothered with him.”
Ms. Wooding said the only truly peaceful time of the school day for Isaiah is the part of the morning that he spends at Sunrise School in Monroeville, where he attends life skills classes. He reports first to Penn Hills High School.
Friday’s assault happened about 7:30 a.m. after Isaiah got off the school bus.
His mother said her most recent complaints to school officials came during the first week back at school after the holiday break when another student tossed spaghetti on Isaiah in the cafeteria.
Ms. Wooding said school officials did not inform her of the assault Friday on her son but left a message on her voice mail saying he hit his head. Isaiah came home with a note from the nurse saying she examined him for a head injury and provided a list of signs of a possible concussion.
“No one from the school called over the weekend to see if Isaiah was OK,” Ms. Wooding said.
She took her son to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, where he was examined.
Isaiah remained at home Monday with a headache and chest pains, his mother said. But he is expected to return to school today, along with his mother, who will be looking for answers and making demands.
“There are some things I’m going to be pressing them on. I’m pretty sure this is not just happening to Isaiah,” Ms. Wooding said.
Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1590. On Twitter @MaryNied.
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