GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The parents of a Northview Public Schools kindergartener say a group of middle schoolers brutally attacked their son while he rode the school bus home.
The five-year-old son of Jermon and Timia came home last Thursday despondent, and simply not acting himself.
Trying to put the pieces together as to what happened to their son, they say they eventually found bruises covering his abdomen, and other parts of his body.
"He was in pain, just kept complaining of abdominal pain, had bruises,” his mom recalled to FOX 17 on Friday. "It really broke me, it did."
Eventually, his parents put the pieces together— they say he was attacked on that bus ride home Thursday by an 11-year-old sixth grader, while a group of other students stood by, some possibly filming it happen.
"It was a gang attack. It was multiple individuals targeting my son," his father said.
Timia called the school Thursday, while Jermon drove there to try and speak with administrators in person.
There was a surveillance camera on the boy's school bus that apparently caught everything, including audio.
His parents say they, initially, administrators would not let them see the video.
“This is something that should have been brought to our attention. I shouldn't have to go force the video out of someone's hand,” Jermon said.
On Wednesday, March 15, the boys' parents finally were able to watch and listen to the school bus surveillance video.
“In the beginning of the video, they say, 'come on let's go beat up this kid again,' and they begin their attack,” Jermon explained. "They banged his head against the metal part of the window repeatedly.“
His parents say students can be heard in the video calling their son racial slurs.
"There was suffocation… they were telling my child to die, telling him to die," his mom recalled with tears streaming from her eyes. “This student had so much hate towards my son.. suffocating him, telling him to die.”
FOX 17 tried to get a copy of the surveillance video to review Friday through Michigan's Freedom of Information Act— the district denied our request.
In their response, the district claims the request was "for an educational record under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (“FERPA”), 20 U.S.C. §1232g, and further, the video contains student personally identifying information."
They also imply that releasing the video could jeopardize the district's safety.
The bus driver, who has been driving for the district since 2016, was placed on administrative leave this week.
Once the investigation into the incident is complete, the case will be given to a Kent County juvenile prosecutor.
The family of the five-year-old has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money toward taking the steps they feel are necessary to deal with the situation.
A spokesperson for the district shared the following statement with FOX 17 on Friday:
“Northview Public Schools is committed to the safety and well-being of our students. We are horrified by the bus incident that took place last week and are conducting a thorough investigation in cooperation with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. The bus driver has been placed on administrative leave, and final disciplinary decisions involving all individuals involved will be made at the conclusion of the investigation.
We are working closely with the student’s family to ensure they receive the support services needed. We are also reviewing our transportation safety measures to ensure the safety of all students and will continue to keep parents and our school community informed of important information as it becomes available and appropriate to share.”