Although those cases have made headlines, the Howard scalding had not been publicly reported. It occurred Oct. 20, when pre-med major Kierstyn Jeffries, 20, of Detroit, allegedly threw a pot of hot water at Caije Murphy, 20, a pre-law student from Sellner, Fla., according to court documents. The two shared an on-campus apartment.
Jeffries was barred from campus and charged in D.C. Superior Court with assault with significant bodily harm. She was released on her own recognizance pending a hearing Wednesday, said a source with firsthand knowledge of the case. Murphy’s chest was seriously burned.
Murphy told police that she and Jeffries argued as Jeffries cooked dinner because Jeffries was using dishes that Murphy’s mother had bought for her. As the argument grew heated, the students “began to swing and hit and scratch each other,” a court statement says. Jeffries is accused of snatching a pan off the stove and flinging its scalding contents at Murphy, who was hospitalized at Washington Hospital Center. She has returned to classes.
Experts said college campuses are fertile ground for conflict. Young people tasting independence for the first time might be less willing to compromise in confrontations. Many students feel isolated until they find the right friends and social activities, leaving them without a support system to help resolve problems. Primary schools have also reported violent incidents involving girls.
“Every week, there is some sort of violent altercation between females and the arrest of young females for violent crimes,” said Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D). “People are figuring out you can’t let them get away with it. Law enforcement has to treat females who are violent the same way they do males if they are going to [change] it.”
As a result of concerns about violence, Howard and other colleges and universities have established zero-tolerance policies. Students who live in residential facilities receive training in “conflict resolution, impulse control and anger management,” said Elaine Bourne Heath, Howard’s dean of special student services, which oversees residential life. Problems between roommates are addressed through mediation or swapping rooms, and students who behave violently are expelled.