AKRON, Ohio – An Akron mother said her son’s school should have done more to respond to a classroom fight that left the 12-year-old with head injuries and a concussion.
Akron police and the Akron Public Schools said they are now investigating the fight, which occurred in a classroom at Innes Community Learning Center Friday afternoon.
Cell phone video recorded by a student and shared on social media shows a confrontation between Liam Zirkle and a group of students that included an exchange of punches and several students kicking Liam while he was on the ground.
More than thirty seconds into the video of the fight, a teacher is heard telling students to “chill out” before making her way to Liam, prompting the other students involved to stop kicking him.
“I am disgusted,” Liam’s mother, Autumn Zirkle, said. “I could not believe there were two teachers like five feet from him.”
She said a school administrator called to tell her about the fight before sending Liam home on the school bus, but she did not know how many other students were involved or the extent of the attack until she saw the cell phone video Friday night.
“I shook all night. I was sick to my stomach. I couldn’t sleep. I just kept thinking, like, my baby was in the fight of his life,” Zirkle said.
She filed a police report Saturday and took Liam to a hospital where she said he was treated for a bruised wrist and head injuries. Zirkle said Liam was experiencing nausea and was diagnosed with a concussion after returning to the hospital Monday.
She said the attackers had been bullying her son throughout the school year, and while she did not contact school administrators about the issue because her son feared retribution, she said school staff was aware.
She said Liam told her the fight started when another student punched him in the back while he was sitting at a desk.
“You worry about them in the bathrooms, in the hallways,” Zirkle said. “I don’t worry about my kids in the classroom; you think there’s an adult there.”
Akron Public Schools Director of Marketing Communications Mark Williamson said in a statement that the district is investigating and “will talk to all parties involved to find out exactly what occurred. The classroom teacher acted properly by calling the school resource officer to intervene and by calling parents.”
The statement said the district does not condone violence and will determine discipline once the investigation is completed.
Williamson said teachers are not required to break up fights but must call for help, tell those involved to stop and minimize other students’ involvement.
While district policy advises staff to call 911 if a child “has significant injury to the head,” Williamson said Innes staff members did not observe obvious signs of Liam’s injuries Friday.
Zirkle said she feels the teacher should have intervened sooner and the school should have taken more action after the fight.
“I would’ve wanted a police report made. I would’ve wanted an ambulance called. I would not have wanted my son sent on the bus with head injuries that were not checked out. I would’ve wanted at least a school nurse to look him over,” Zirkle said. “I would’ve liked to have been told the extent, so I could’ve been down there at the school.”
She said Liam will not be returning to Innes.