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An 11-year-old Grant County Middle School student said bullies broke his leg in three places after an altercation in the bathroom.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, but have not determined who is to blame.
“Obviously, one child does have a broken leg, but we don’t know who the real victim is,” said Grant County Sheriff Chuck Dills.
The story of Devin McCracken’s injuries spread through Grant County and beyond after a family member posted information about the incident on Facebook last week.
School and police said news media began calling and requesting information about the alleged incident.
“The case is still under investigation and charges could be filed,” said Dills.
McCracken claims that on April 19, he was beaten up in the boy’s bathroom at GCMS, where his leg was broken. Dills said other students in the bathroom at the time of the incident told police that
McCracken and two or three others were “horsing” around in the bathroom when his leg was broken.
The postings on Facebook accused the school district of not protecting McCracken and chided police for mishandling the investigation.
“We have not dropped the ball,” Dills said. “Even if we had a report, we couldn’t give it out because it involves a minor.”
Don Ruberg, legal counsel for Grant County schools, stressed that there are two sides to the incident.
“We are not allowed, under FERPA, to talk about this situation and we (the school district) have repeatedly requested that the child’s mother give us permission to tell what happened in the incident and she has refused to let us do that,” Ruberg said.
FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Generally, schools must have written permission from a parent or guardian in order to release any information from the student’s records.
Ruberg said the incident is not only being investigated by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, but the school district and the Office of Educational Accountability.
Dills said that social media can be both a blessing and a curse for law enforcement.
“We’ve been able to use Facebook to obtain information about break-ins and drugs,” Dills said.
He said police have used the social sites to locate felons and recover stolen property.
“Some have posted photos of themselves with stolen merchandise,” he said. “We even had a convicted felon with an outstanding warrant who posted a photo of himself holding guns. When we picked him up on the warrant, we were able to charge him with other charges because of the Facebook posting.”
Dills said most of the information he has received from social media comes to his personal Facebook page.
“I’d say that I receive at least one or two tips a day and sometimes as many as 10 or 12,” he said.
On the flip side, social media and public postings can sometimes hinder an investigation.
“We get a lot of complaints from people over harassing communications because they go back and forth on social sites and then there’s the situation when mis-information makes its rounds. It may look like we are concealing something, but the law may prohibit us from discussing the case, especially when you are talking a case involving a juvenile,” Dills said.