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Deputy's son assaulted at school

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

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A Henry County father is speaking out about what he maintains was a "violent" attack on his son earlier this month at a Henry County school. School officials are not so talkative about the incident.

On March 3, Michael Hensley said his 15-year-old son was changing classes at Luella High School, when he was beaten so badly another student, he had to seek treatment at Henry Medical Center.

"He was going to one of the trailers to change classes, when another student punched him to the ground," said Hensley, who is a sheriff's deputy in a neighboring county. "When he fell, he hit his head on the curb, which knocked him unconscious.

"He got six stitches. They couldn't sew all of it up, because he had trauma to his face," continued Hensley. "He looked the way people look when I see them in wrecks," said the deputy.

"Another student found my son, and alerted the staff," said Hensley.

Henry Schools officials would not comment on the specific incident. Luella High School Principal George Eckerle cited school policy, which prohibits him from discussing records involving individual students. Public schools are bound federal privacy laws regarding students.

The deputy said he spoke with an assistant principal at Luella, about the attack. He said the school official told him the school's resource officer was dealing with three fights going on simultaneously, when staffers were made aware his son was in the hallway bleeding.

"I do everything in my power to protect him. I never thought he'd be harmed," said Hensley. "It was an unprovoked attack," said Hensley. "I know it was a pre-planned attack, because another kid videotaped it on his cell phone," he added.

The Henry County Sheriff's Office arrested fellow student, Willie James Gamble, 17, of Hampton. He was charged with aggravated battery, according to officials at the Henry County Jail.

During Gamble's preliminary hearing, March 4, Henry County Magistrate Court Judge Robert Godwin, set his bond at $10,000, and instructed Gamble to have no contact with his alleged victim. The case has been bound over to superior court. Gamble was released from the county jail on March 4, according to records from the Henry County Jail.

Hensley said he and his wife questioned why their son, a sophomore at the school, was attacked. He said his son remains "traumatized" the incident, and is in private school. He said Henry school officials have told him his son could attend another Henry County school, but he would have to return to Luella, if his alleged attacker moves.

While school officials would not comment on the alleged attack on Hensley's son, the board member who represents the area did talk about her school district's zero tolerance policy on violence. "We take a proactive stand against violence in schools," said Pam Nutt, District I member of the Henry County Board of Education. Nutt, also an educator in the Griffin-Spalding School System, has two children who graduated from Luella. She said she has confidence that the school is safe.

"You're always going to have situations, regardless of your best efforts ... but you do the best with what you have," she said.

Henry County's school resource officers help teachers and administrators in identifying potential signs of gang activity and violence, said Nutt. "Parents also need to take a more active part in their children's lives," she said. "It cannot be the sole responsibility of the school system. It has to be a community endeavor. We're all busy, but we've got to come up with something to get these kids involved, and get them off the street. Know your kid's friends, and know their families.

"As a teacher, it scares me to know that I'll have students who will go off at any moment," she continued. "I am dedicated to every child learning. I have a responsibility to other students, to help keep them safe [because] there are a lot of good kids out here, too. And I don't want the goodness in our public schools to be overshadowed the bad."

–– Staff writer Jason Smith contributed to this article.