Responding to a bullying incident caught on video, a jury has said Prince George’s County schools must pay $100,000 to the family of an elementary student who was assaulted by another girl on a school bus as other children agitated for a brawl.
The assault on Saraia Collins, who was a 9-year-old Highland Park Elementary School student at the time, was captured on cellphone videos by other students, and left her with a concussion and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to her attorney and her mother. The family contended the school bus driver should have stopped the vehicle or intervened sooner as the girl was being pummeled and screaming, “Stop! Stop!”
Tierra Holland, Collins’s mother, said bringing the lawsuit wasn’t about money but about holding the school system accountable in the 2015 incident.
“They never apologized, not one time,” said Holland, 32. “If I had gotten an apology or something disciplinary to students, I wouldn’t have done this, but I needed some kind of justice.”
The jury’s verdict was returned Wednesday in county circuit court.
Asked about the case, a spokeswoman for the school system, Lynn McCawley, said that “it is not our policy to comment on legal matters.”
Brian K. McDaniel, the attorney for Holland’s family, said video of the girl’s beating was disseminated on YouTube among students, adding to her trauma.
“The jury took into consideration the actual assault was captured on video and that it is something she will have to deal with for the rest of her life,” McDaniel said.
The incident happened on the afternoon of May 8, 2015, he said. Saraia, a fourth-grade student at the time, was on her way home from school when students on the bus began yelling that they wanted to see a fight.
The bus driver stopped and went to the back of the bus to address the disruption, then returned to the front, McDaniel said.
Another girl on the bus, a second-grader, confronted Saraia at that point, challenging her to fight, video of the incident shows.
“I’m not fighting you!” Saraia is heard screaming repeatedly on video.
The driver again stops and confronts the students.
“He tells the young lady threatening Saraia, ‘I’m going to take you back to school,’ ” McDaniel said. “He goes back to the front. Then she is assaulted for two minutes.”
The video shows Saraia screaming, “Get out of my face, I’m not going to fight you,” before the second-grader climbs on Saraia’s seat, towers over her and starts to slap her.
Video shows the second-grade girl pinning Saraia down with one arm and repeatedly punching her head with the other. The bus appears to remain in motion while children jump and scream.
“The other kids on the bus are yelling and screaming, and the bus driver doesn’t do anything,” McDaniel said. “He doesn’t file a report or call the police.”
The end of the video shows Saraia curled up in a ball in her seat and crying. A boy mimics and mocks her sobs.
Holland said she was brought to tears when she first saw the video.
Holland said her family had complained to school administrators in the past about incidents involving the student seen on video attacking her daughter, but said the school system never reprimanded the girl. She had to take the video to Prince George’s County police to get action in her daughter’s case, Holland said.
“What we are teaching these children and bullies out there is if you do something wrong, you get a slap on the wrist,” she said.
Holland’s daughter is now 11 and attends private school.
In the two years since the bus attack, Holland said her daughter has changed. The once outgoing “social butterfly” is withdrawn and quiet. She won’t sleep unless a light remains on because she’s afraid of the dark, her mother said.
“I’m hoping that eventually she will go back to being her,” Holland said. “I want her to get her youth back and be a child.”