Sunday, December 10, 2017
Education

Video of Pasco teen under attack gets posted on Facebook

TRINITY — The attack lasted seven seconds. The assailant landed 15 punches into the back of Chase Cristia's head and neck as a friend recorded the attack on shaky cell phone video. Other students watched while Chase hung almost limp in the other girl's grasp, the sickening thuds of the beating filling the back of the school bus.

Then the other girl, a 17-year-old fellow sophomore at J.W. Mitchell High School, stopped and shoved Chase.

"That's what you get for talking s---, b----!" she yelled. The video ended.

Chase, 16, called her mother in tears. When she got off the bus that Friday afternoon, her mother, Tracy Cristia, brought her inside and tried to calm her down.

Chase still had an ice pack on her neck when she got a text from her friend. The video had just been posted to Facebook.

• • •

It had been building since the beginning of the week.

On Jan. 29, Chase said, friends told her the girl wanted to fight her. She didn't know their full names. That afternoon, she said, the other girl who later recorded the beating tried to trip her as she walked off the bus.

In the cafeteria Friday, the other girls, who are not being named because of their ages, made fun of Chase's friend. They called him fat and said he needed to change his pants because they didn't fit. Chase spoke up.

"Stop picking on my friend," she told them. "We're in 10th grade, and we should act mature."

The other girls told her to watch her back on the bus ride home.

Chase called her mom and asked her for a ride home, but her mother couldn't pick her up. She said she told assistant principal Jill Cortier what happened and filled out a written report. She said Cortier told her to notify the bus driver that afternoon. That was two hours before the beating.

Normally, when a report is filed, administrators intervene, talk to both students and call parents, said Mitchell High principal Jim Michaels.

But "the administrator that dealt with it did not feel that it was threatening in nature," Michaels said. "There was no way for the administrator to foresee that."

There was no intervention. No mediation. Two hours later, Chase was beaten.

Michaels said he has talked with the administrator about whether she could have done anything differently. The incident is under investigation, he said, and he could not comment further.

Gary Sawyer, superintendent of transportation for Pasco schools, said he talked to the bus driver about that afternoon.

The driver said he was making a right turn when the beating happened and it was over before he would do anything. The driver said he hollered at the students, who were already separated, so he continued on the route.

"We're not going to pull a bus over after the situation has already calmed down because you're just asking for it all to start over again," Sawyer said. "In 10 seconds, that's not even enough time to get the bus parked."

The driver wrote referrals that afternoon for the attacker and the girl who shot the video.

• • •

Later Friday, Tracy Cristia called 911. The two girls were arrested Tuesday; a battery charge for the attacker; an accessory charge for the girl who shot the video.

The video, titled "Talk S--- Get Hit," is still on a Facebook site called Crazy Fights 2013. And it may be out there for good.

"It's not like we can recall them," Pasco School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso said of student videos posted online.

Chase, an honor roll student who is hoping to attend college one day, hasn't been to school since the beating. Her mother said she won't make her ride the bus until she's ready. She wears a hospital band on each wrist from two visits in the past week, most recently for a neck X-ray. She plans to be back in class today.

During the attack, Chase said, she was focused on not retaliating. The pain didn't set in until afterward. Now that she has seen the video, she said the attack was more brutal than it felt at the time. Watching it brings tears to her mother's eyes.

Tracy Cristia said she is looking into obtaining a restraining order against the girls.

"I'm trying to teach my daughter a lesson here: that she doesn't have to be the victim. That she can come out of this stronger."

Alex Orlando can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.

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