A Brunswick High School student who allegedly hit a fellow student who was readying for a television interview on bullying has been charged with second-degree assault, according to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
The 15-year-old, who has been charged as a juvenile, could face a maximum penalty of $2,500 or ten years in jail, Lt. Tom Winebrenner of the Sheriff’s Office said Friday.
“The consequences are different for juveniles,” Winebrenner said. “He was never in custody.”
The charges represent the latest development in a highly-publicized case of alleged bullying that was partially captured on camera at Brunswick High on Monday.
The student facing charges was one of the three boys who allegedly attacked sophomore Preston Deener, also 15, as he was getting ready for an interview with a WHAG TV reporter at the school, Winebrenner said.
According to a report by WHAG TV reporter Katie Kyros, one of the three boys “lunged toward Preston and started pushing him and hitting him on the head” as she was readying to interview him about being bullied at school.
Kyros did not record the attack on camera but shot footage of Preston as he ran away from one of the boys.
The footage went viral and was broadcast to numerous outlets, including Yahoo News, ABC2, Gawker, Huffington Post and YouTube.
Brunswick High School officials reported the incident to the school resource officer, which triggered the official investigation, Winebrenner said.
The Sheriff’s Office found that the incident was an isolated occurrence, Winebrenner said. He added that the student facing charges has not been involved in alleged previous incidents involving Deener.
Deener came into the media spotlight when he was suspended for three days after starting a fight in gym class at school last week. Deener and his mother, Cheryl, protested the suspension, claiming that Deener fought back for the first time after being bullied at school for years.
The WHAG TV crew had come to the school to interview Deener about his experience.
On Friday, Cheryl Deener said she was “sad” for the boy who was charged but expressed hope that it would send the right message about bullying to other children.
“Our hearts go out to the boy and his family,” Deener wrote in a message to The Gazette. “We learn from our mistakes; that’s what makes us a better person.”
Michael Doerrer, the school system’s spokesman, praised the Sheriff’s Office for its quick work and said it was important for the public to note that the student charged has not been involved in other incidents involving Deener.
“I know the public has been hungry about specifics,” he said. “But we have chosen to respect the students’ privacy ... The sheriff’s office has taken quick and responsible action to respond to this incident and so has the school system.”
Frederick County Schools Superintendent Theresa Alban on Wednesday said the incident has led the school system to improve the ways in which it handles bullying.
Under the current policy, staff is not required to fill in a bullying and harassment report every time they hear of a student being bullied.
Deener’s case, however, prompted Alban to send a memo urging administrators to report every bullying incident.