From Radio Matthew
Last week, a middle school student from eastern Texas was assaulted by a group of her Latino classmates after siding against illegal immigration in a class history project. Melanie Bowers said 21 Latino students threatened to rape and kill her after she constructed a sign for her project that read: “If you love this nation, stop illegal immigration.” According to Melanie, a male student jumped on her back, placed her in a choke hold, then dragged her face across a brick wall. The thirteen-year-old’s story captivated a nationwide audience—but in the end, it was just that. A story.
The proof, school administrators say, was in surveillance cameras that Athens Middle School recently upgraded. The school opened in 2000 with some security cameras in place; the recent upgrade by the Athens Independent School District now allow school officials to monitor the school from multiple angles at multiple times. In this case, the cameras served to catch a crime that wasn’t being committed.
“It would have been very difficult for us to find out what happened if we didn’t have that system,” Dr. Fred Hayes, Superintendent to AISD, told KLTV.
According to a statement by Dr. Hayes posted on AISD’s website, “All information gathered from surveillance video and student testimonies reveals that the allegations of assault are false and that the injuries on the student’s body were self inflicted.” The statement goes on to say that any attack on a student is investigated by the school’s law enforcement department; in this case, the matter was also investigated by local law enforcement.
The surveillance video shows Melanie Bowers walking away from the school’s cafeteria toward the administration office. While walking through the halls, she is seen holding her poster to her chest, aimed at a group of students walking by. A male student walked behind Bowers, grabbed her poster and ran. The student ran into the school’s gymnasium with Bowers running after him—passing several teachers on the way, but not stopping to ask for help.
Along with two other girls, Bowers made her way to Assistant Principal Mark Castleberry’s office where she explained the confrontation in the hallway. Seconds later, all three girls are seen leaving Castleberry’s office. The tape jumps to show Bowers scratching her neck, face and arms along the school’s brick walls, but the tape never shows a group of students assaulting her.
Parents Gary Bowers and his wife, Shera, were shown the tape Wednesday. After viewing the surveillance video, they issued a hand-written statement to the media reading, “(Our) daughter was not assaulted and put the marks on her body. No gang violence was witnessed and she filed a false report.”
A false report that now has Melanie Bowers in big trouble. The school plans to charge Bowers with filing a false police report—a Class B misdemeanor in Texas that will likely see a less severe penalty since Bowers is a minor.
Three students involved in the incident were placed on In-School Suspension, initially for the attack, but now for the confrontation. One student received ISS for destroying the sign; the other two students received ISS for provoking the first student. “It’s what we would do to anybody who destroys a project,” Dr. Hayes remarked.