EXCLUSIVE: 12-Year-Old Strangled Unconscious In Texas School While Teacher Watched, Family Not Notified

Sarah Fields

A mother in Henderson, Texas is desperate for answers after her child was brutally assaulted in class while a teacher was present.

The horrific incident took place at Henderson Middle School on February 28, just two weeks before students were released for spring break.

The Publica has been provided a copy of a formal grievance submitted to the school district by the child’s mother, which outlines that she was not informed about the assault for almost one week after it took place.

According to the complaint, the incident began when 12-year-old Kevin* was sent to in-school suspension (ISS) after being caught playing with another student in the bathroom. As per school district policy, Kevin’s mother was immediately informed about his ISS, which was to take place in a special classroom.

Though ISS is a period of disciplined study, the classroom was reportedly under very little supervision when Kevin arrived, with the substitute aide allowing students to do as they pleased with minimal oversight.

According to the grievance, Kevin was speaking with other students in the room when another boy overheard their conversation and did not like one of the jokes being exchanged. The boy, whose identity cannot be revealed, began attacking Kevin, chasing him around the room.

CCTV footage has been obtained by The Publica showing Kevin running from the other boy until his hoodie was grabbed from behind and he was thrown to the ground.

The violence continued to escalate, with assailant then straddling Kevin, who was on the floor, and strangling him.

In the footage, the 12-year-old is seen going limp as he weakens from a lack of oxygen. The entire time, the substitute aide is in the room and watching the assault without intervening. At one point, the aide is seen calling for help, at which point Kevin goes unconscious.

But despite the horrific attack, Kevin’s family was not informed about what happened.

The Publica was told that Kevin’s older brother had picked him up from school at the end of the day and was vaguely informed that the school’s administration would be contacting their mother later on.

Henderson Middle School Discipline Specialist Heidi Pahlman. Photo Credit: LinkedIn

Heidi Pahlman, the school’s discipline specialist, reportedly told Kevin’s older brother – “Do not worry, Kevin is not in trouble.”

Traumatized from his experience, Kevin did not speak-up about the incident. When the school failed to call, his family was left entirely unaware of what had happened while he was in ISS.

An entire week passed before Kevin’s mother finally learned of the incident through another parent on March 6.

The next day, Kevin’s mother and grandmother went to the school to speak to Pahlman and Driver. Despite their attempts to get answers about what had happened, the school’s secretary informed them that “it was a testing day” and no one could speak to the teachers.

Feeling helpless, Kevin’s mother, Natalie*, decided to call the Henderson Police Department, at which point the assistant principal, Nikki Driver, came out of her office with the School Resource Officer.

Driver’s stepdaughter, Amber, had been the substitute aide overseeing the ISS class the day Kevin was assaulted. Driver reportedly excused Amber’s actions, claiming her stepdaughter hadn’t intervened because she did not want to be held liable for hurting either one of the boys by separating them.

Assistant Principal Nikki Driver. Photo Credit: LinkedIn

Speaking to The Publica, Natalie claims that while seeking answers about what happened to her son, she was affronted with “lies” at every turn.

In one example Natalie provides, Pahlman reportedly insisted the school had “proof” that showed they had tried to contact her immediately following the assault.

The school’s head principal, Russell Wylie, later admitted in a recorded conversation that he had “no documentation [proving] that the mother was notified.”

Natalie also says she was told that she was not allowed to file a grievance against the teachers, but later discovered that was also a lie.

Disturbingly, Natalie was informed that the school felt they had no responsibility in what had happened to her child. In one recorded conversation provided to The Publica, Natalie can be heard expressing disbelief about the situation to head principal Wiley.

“I cannot get over [this]. I love my kids with all my heart… I have four other kids I have to worry about. If something happened to one, I would have to worry about all of them… maybe being taken away from me. And to know the school district wouldn’t have stepped up and acknowledged what had happened at the school,” Natalie says, voice strained. “Why was I not contacted?”

During the meeting with Wylie, Natalie was supported by Rachel Hale, a resident of Henderson who acts as a parent advocate. Hale can be heard in the recording similarly incredulous about the situation, telling Wylie: “You are asking for our tax dollars and asking for us to put our children in your custody and control, and then something of this magnitude happens and there’s not even the decency of a phone call?”

But to make matters worse, Natalie says the aide who oversaw her child’s assault without intervening was recently promoted within the school.

“As a mother, I feel disgusted, outraged and completely defeated,” she told The Publica. “The little regard shown for the situation is appalling! The fact that the aide that let it happen is being rewarded by being promoted is a straight slap to the face.”

The aide has faced no professional repercussions, nor does the student who assaulted Kevin appear to have been penalized. Natalie’s grievance, submitted to the district, has similarly been dismissed, with none of her concerns or expectations of action being fulfilled.

While Natalie continues to fight for answers about the incident, she says Kevin has been regularly seeing the school counselor due to trauma.

“I’m completely beside myself that as a parent who has pleaded for something to be done, I feel as if I got the opposite reaction from the district about this,” Natalie says.

This is not the first time Henderson Independent School District (ISD) has come under scrutiny for its treatment of students and their families.

In January, a lawsuit was filed against the district alleging that it ignored the bullying of a disabled middle school student and retaliated against her mother after she made complaints.

According to local KETK, the student, who lives with mental and physical disabilities, was a student at Henderson Middle School until her mother and stepfather removed her citing safety concerns. The parents say the school had allowed their daughter to be subject to extreme bullying with no intervention even after concerns were repeatedly raised.

After the girl’s mother continued to complain about her daughter’s treatment, several Henderson ISD officials reportedly advised families in the district to stop using the woman’s cleaning services, which she had provided in the community and was a source of family income.

*The names of the family involved have been changed to protect the child’s privacy.

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Sarah Fields

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