Margaretville second-graders suspended after assault plot is unveiled

By Brian Sweeney
Seven second-graders at Margaretville Central School were suspended last week after they were accused of developing a plot to assault a classmate. The students were issued appearance tickets from the Delaware County Probation Department. The youths have also been suspended from school for five days. The children range in age from seven to nine.

The plans came to light on Thursday when another second-grader who was not involved in the incidenttold her parents that she had learned that the students were planning the attack.

A source, who asked to remain anonymous, said that school officials were tipped off about a carefully prepared strategy for an assault on their female classmate. The plans reportedly included detailed drawings and indicated places for stationing “lookouts,” as well a location where the assault would occur. The students were reportedly were upset because they found their classmate to be a bully.

After school officials were notified of the plans by the parent, they investigated and determined that the information was accurate and that a female student’s safety was in jeopardy. State police were then notified and intervened.

Because of the serious nature of the incident, MCS Superintendent John Riedl drafted a letter that was sent home to parents.

“This morning, we became aware of a situation which involved second-graders planning to hurt one of their classmates, “ the superintendent wrote. “The issue was immediately investigated and deemed to be serious in nature. As a result, we have asked the NYS Police to help determine the appropriate response. Because of the seriousness of this incident, and to protect the privacy of all our children, we cannot release any details, but we want you to be aware that something has occurred,” the letter stated.

Student safety
MCS Superintendent John Riedl said that the district takes such matters very seriously, but indicated that he was not a liberty to discuss the facts of the case.

“Federal law and common sense prohibit me from saying anything regarding our investigation last week," he said. "Student safety is as important to us as is academic success. We will do our best to assure a quality education in a safe environment for our district children."

He added, “We are appreciative of parents and students who are vigilant and assist us in such matters.”

The parent who reported the incident to the school told the News that she preferred not to elaborate on the incident.

“It’s still pending, I don’t know what’s going to happen. There may be a meeting called by the board,” she said.

Parents speak
Upset with what they felt was an unfair portrayal of the incident in Tuesday’s Daily Star from Oneonta, two parents who identified themselves as parents whose children were implicated in the event contacted the News to provide their side of the story. One of the mothers said the school did not do enough to prevent this type of incident.

“These kids have gone to the teachers and they never did anything to protect these boys. I just feel that the school did nothing to protect the kids,” she stated.

The mother said she raised the issue of the girl’s behavior last fall during a conference day.

“I complained to the school after my son came home with a cut lip and a bloody tooth [after allegedly being hit by this girl]. I also told them that another parent's child had bruises from getting kicked by her,” she recalled.

After making the complaint, the mother said she was told that, “She’s an only child and she doesn’t know how to play with other kids."

The mother said she had instructed her son “don’t touch her, because you don’t hit girls.”

The parent also indicated that she didn’t feel the students would have followed through with their plan.

“I think they came up with the plan because they were playing a game and they needed a bad guy. None of them had any idea how serious this is,” she commented.

Another mother, who also said she was the parent of an accused student contacted the News and said she felt the case was poorly handled by the school.

She said that three students were primarily responsible for drawing a picture showing different ways to hurt one of their classmates. The mother indicated that four students were merely sitting at the lunch table and had their names included on the plans.

The parent also indicated the drawings showed students using various weapons to hurt their classmate. She added, “They make it out like the kids are really going to kill somebody... that’s not what was happening.”

The mother said the drawing was the work of three students and the others were dragged into the episode.

“Half the children who are being punished didn’t even know what was being drawn,” she said.

She did, however, defend the dislike that the students felt toward their classmate.
“The child who was the one they were doing this to has a history of problems with just about everybody in that class," she said. "She’s not a little angel."

Superintendent responds
Told of these remarks, Riedl noted, “There are two sides to every story and there are no easy answers.”

He added that the school is always looking for better ways to prevent such incidents.

“We’re taking a look at changing the climate and culture of our school and to work even harder to deal with these problem situations," he said.

Scott Glueckert, director of the Delaware County Probation Department, said cases involving children under age 16 usually involve charges that would be applied if they were adults. Because of their ages, the charges are generally changed to juvenile delinquency.

Glueckert said he still does not have paperwork for this case and not aware of the charges made against the MCS students.

Similar Georgia case
The incident has a number of parallels to a case unveiled in Georgia last March in which 11 third-graders were accused of planning to kill their teacher.

In the Georgia case, a knife to allegedly be used for the murder was found and other students possessed duct tape, handcuffs, ribbon and a heavy crystal paperweight in preparation for the attack. One of the students told police that his assignment was to clean up the blood from the killing. That case was also exposed by a student who learned of the plans.