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Fight at jr. high school caught on camera, student charged with assault

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Posted at 10:20 PM, Jun 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-05 00:20:29-04

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah -- A freshman girl at Bennion Jr. High School in Taylorsville is charged with assault after a video captured her beating up another student, according to Granite School District officials.

The fight happened April 16 during a woodshop class, as 15-year-old Katie Burnside was heading into the room to complete an assignment.

“I was just going to class like a regular day, didn’t know anything was going to happen,” Katie said.

But video recorded on a cell phone captures what happened to Katie instead. Minutes into the class, Katie said a girl she barely knew called her into a separate room. The student began arguing with her about a boy, at which point Katie said she noticed several others waiting behind her with their cell phone cameras out.

“Then I knew she was going to hit me,” Katie said. “Finally, I got slammed into the door and that’s when I blacked out with everything. I don’t remember exactly what happened after.”

The fight between the two girls lasted about a minute. During the recording, students can be heard cheering and encouraging the two as they hit each other.  In the background, you can see the classroom teacher standing near them, but not immediately trying to separate them. Almost two months later, the images are still causing pain to the family.

“Sickens me, sickens me. It should have never happened,” said Burnside’s mother, Christine Johnson.

Johnson expressed disappointment with not only what happened to her daughter, but what didn’t. She said repeated calls to the school district about the fight were not answered or addressed, and she was particularly frustrated when after a three-day suspension, Katie’s attacker was back in school.

“It was horrible, it was horrible,” Johnson said. “I asked every one of them, ‘If this was your daughter, you tell me how you’d handle it.’”

District Spokesman Ben Horsley explained they have been investigating the incident since it happened, but conceded they have not been keeping Katie and her family properly informed.

“It’s very disturbing, it’s violent,” Horsley said. “It’s very clear it was a premeditated act on the part of the perpetrator. With respect to the victim, I can fully understand the mother’s frustration with respect to her student’s safety.”

On May 22, the student involved was charged with assault. According to Horsley, she will not be allowed back at school until a special committee reviews what happened.

Johnson said she was contacted by the district Tuesday morning, and they apprised her of their investigation, but she is hopeful further disciplinary action will be taken.

“I would like to see the teacher lose his job for allowing this to happen to my daughter and not to stop it,” she said. “He needs to be held accountable, and he needs to lose his job.”

Horsley said the teacher is still working in the capacity he was in when the fight happened, but they are reviewing his actions, as well as those of any others who may have been involved.

“My daughter is at home being protected while all these students are still at school doing what they’re being allowed to do,” Johnson said. “They’re not taking responsibility for what’s happening.”

The student who allegedly attacked Katie has been in trouble at the school before. Horsley said she was involved in a fight with another student, but he would not go into detail about what happened. Johnson said that attack was also captured on video.