Sunday, June 17, 2018
Education

Girl's parents outraged over her videotaped beating at Pinellas school

CLEARWATER — Before she blacked out, Vanessa Chauvin said she heard the boy's order.

"Get her good. So she can't have babies."

Outside Calvin A. Hunsinger School on Wednesday morning, some male students watched as a female classmate yanked the 14-year-old freshman's ponytail, punched her head and kneed her again and again in the stomach. For eight minutes, the boys stood around the two girls, whooping and jeering.

"Hit her!"

"Kill her!"

One shot video with his phone. After an ambulance took Vanessa away, he uploaded it to Facebook.

The Pinellas County School District was still investigating the assault Thursday, said district spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra.

Vanessa's angry parents want to know: What happens to the boy who sent a four-minute record of her brutal beating into cyberspace? Who made it virtually unerasable?

The girl who attacked Vanessa will likely face suspension or expulsion, Parra said. The boys egging her on may be reprimanded at the principal's discretion. That's standard policy for the school district.

The student who shot the video on school grounds without the principal's permission can be punished, Parra said.

But uploading the humiliating video to the Web, to the outrage of Lori and David Chauvin, is not a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.

Vanessa, who lives in Largo, sat on her mobile home porch Thursday evening as her mom talked to a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy.

Lori Chauvin pointed to bruises on her daughter's face, arms and stomach.

"This," she said, "is not acceptable."

After the beating, the brother of the boy who shot the video texted Vanessa, which is why an officer came out: We're going to kill you and your family for getting him in trouble, you snitch.

Vanessa and Lori slept Wednesday night on the living room floor, away from the big bedroom windows.

"It doesn't stop," the freshman said. "And now, after he put it on Facebook, it's everywhere online. I can't get away from it."

Vanessa tells the story of what happened this way:

The girl who jumped her, she later learned, was jealous because a boy she liked had a crush on Vanessa. That morning, about 9:15 a.m., the girl simply walked out of in-school suspension. At the same time, Vanessa was leaving health class.

"A boy was calling me bad names," she said, "so the teacher sent me out to take a breather."

It was pure chance and bad timing that the girls met outside. But it wasn't the first time Vanessa had been attacked. In September, her first month of high school, a girl punched her in the face. In October, another girl kicked Vanessa so hard she went to the hospital.

Calvin A. Hunsinger School serves students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. During the 2011-2012 school year, 75 of the school's 119 students received out-of-school suspensions — a rate of 63 percent. A typical Pinellas high school that year had a suspension rate of 11 percent, a typical middle school 16.8 percent.

On Thursday, Vanessa was still wearing a red wristband from Morton Plant Mease hospital, where she spent six hours Wednesday before she was released. She is still being watched for concussion symptoms.

"I kinda thought I was going to die," Vanessa recalled. "I was so mad and so scared. I didn't think anyone was going to come help me."

She won't return to Calvin Hunsinger, her parents said. They want to put her in a private school next, where she can join the volleyball team and prepare for her dream college, Stetson University.

"For months, she always had to watch her front, watch her back," Lori said of Calvin Hunsinger. "It's a prison mentality. My daughter has been terrified. She just puts on this brave face."

Times staff writer Lisa Gartner contributed to this report. Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4224.

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