ROGERSVILLE — Two Rogersville Middle School boys accused of beating a classmate for refusing to join their gang have not yet been cited into Hawkins County Juvenile Court, although investigations into the incident continue.
But Director of Schools Charlotte Britton said Monday that parents should rest assured that their children are safe at RMS and any other school in the Hawkins County system.
Britton met with RMS Principal John Carroll and district Middle School Supervisor Jim Hageman Monday for an update on the situation.
“At the school level, Dr. Carroll is doing an internal investigation that is ongoing at this point with any of the other students who were involved in this incident,” Britton said. “He is interviewing each one of the students to try to find out more information, and that’s what is ongoing right now. Plus, he has talked with parents of any of the students who might be involved also.”
The beating reportedly occurred Jan. 29 around 1:30 p.m. in an RMS boys restroom and may have been captured partially by school video surveillance.
According to police and school sources, the victim had been asked by two boys ages 12 and 13 to join their club, and to do so would only require a handshake.
After the handshake the victim was allegedly told by the two boys that he’d joined their gang called R&R (Rock & Roll) and would be required to dress a certain way and follow certain directions.
When the boy said he didn’t want to be a part of their gang, the two other boys allegedly beat him up. School officials said the victim was taken to the hospital for treatment of bumps and bruises, and his parents later reported to the school that the boy had a broken nose.
A subsequent Rogersville Police Department investigation reportedly revealed the names of 10 RMS students on a list of names of R&R gang members. The two boys alleged to have committed the beating were assigned to the system’s alternative school.
School officials said there hadn’t been a problem with graffiti or problems associated with gang activities prior to the alleged beating last week.
Britton said Monday that safety is of the utmost importance in Hawkins County Schools, although she admitted that she is not convinced at this point that the event was legitimately gang related. She is reserving judgment until the investigations — at both the police and the school levels — are completed.
“I don’t think we can make a comment at this time (on whether the incident was gang related) because of the internal investigation at the school and the possibility of the (boys’) appearance before the juvenile judge,” Britton said Monday. “Hawkins County Schools will not tolerate any gang-related activities in the schools. We’re putting more safety measures in place at the schools, and that was part of our discussion in our meeting this afternoon.”
Among the new safety measures in place are increased student supervision in hallways, restrooms and in the cafeteria. Britton said some other new safety measures are still in the discussion stage.