Hospital after school attack

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Parents have criticised the lack of disciplinary action following an incident at Cockatoo Primary School where a boy required immediate medical attention, after a fight broke out on the school oval.

A lunchtime football game on Thursday 20 October, among up to a dozen children, ended in calls to the police and paramedics when an 11-year-old child was beaten to the ground and knocked unconscious.

An air ambulance was dispatched due to concerns the boy may have sustained a spinal injury.

Almost a dozen parents, who have chosen to remain anonymous to protect their children’s identity, recounted the scene their children witnessed on the oval.

It is understood that the injured child had seen a boy physically harming another child and had grabbed him around the throat to restrain him.

After releasing him, it is believed the original provoker turned around and punched the intervening child to the ground.

The aggressor was then seen continuously kicking the child in his back, neck and head while he lay motionless and unresponsive on the ground.

Ambulance Victoria’s report stated that the child sustained bruising to the head and suspected spinal injuries, and was transferred in a road ambulance to the Monash Medical Centre in a stable condition.

Tests conducted later at the hospital determined there were no spinal injuries.

Emerald Police Acting Senior Sergeant Ian Pregnell said his officers had informed him that two 11-year-old boys had a “disagreement” on the football field.

The school called police at about 3pm.

“There was a little bit of a fight over a football. As a result, an ambulance came. An air ambulance was also dispatched because a boy was complaining of a sore back,” Act Sen Sgt Pregnell said.

“The boy was taken by road to the Monash. He was assessed and found to have a bit of bruising but no extensive injury.”

Since the injured child had not broken any bones or sustained a spinal injury as a result of the incident, the police have not investigated the matter further.

“It’s now in the hands of the school to decide on appropriate discipline for those involved. From our perspective, this was a schoolyard altercation,” he said.

“This is not a matter for police.”

Medical records supplied to the Gazette claimed that the child briefly lost consciousness as a result of the multiple blows to the head.

The document confirmed that he sustained a neck sprain, head swelling to the left parietal and occipital lobes, grazed arms and legs and an abrasion to the back of his head above his left ear.

The boy missed two weeks of school while recovering from his injuries.

A family member of the boy who required medical attention said the police had not formally questioned him for his version of events.

She said it took the child until 8pm that night, on Thursday 20 October, to regain memory.

“He kept responding to paramedics that it was winter time and a Friday in July. He had no recollection of the time of day,” she said.

“The next day when his memory started coming back to him, he re-lived the situation which was heart-breaking.

“He was very withdrawn on the Saturday and his speech was a bit slurred. It was not until late Saturday that he started to be more himself.”

The family member said the kicks had left a mark resembling the tip of a shoe on the back of the child’s head above his left ear.

“The impact caused blood vessels to burst,” she said.

“He was defending a friend from being beaten.

“The whole thing has been put down to a playground footy tackle. The aggressor was back at school the following Monday.”

The Department of Education provided a statement on behalf of Cockatoo Primary School principal Darrelyn Boucher.

“A child complained of neck and head pain and, as a precaution, an ambulance was called, and the child was taken to hospital. As per protocol, police were also notified and attended,” the statement read.

“The child was discharged from hospital on the same day and is safe and well.

“The safety of our children is always our top priority and we take playground safety very seriously.”

Ms Boucher said the school had investigated the incident, and was offering “ongoing support and counselling” to the students involved.

Some parents of children on the oval at the time of the incident said it had been a confronting ordeal.

“My child’s had nightmares, it was a really traumatic thing to witness,” one parent told the Gazette.

“My son was just not himself when he got home that day. He kept repeating the words ‘it was just horrible’.

“They should have given all the kids who were on the oval the chance to say what they saw happen and a chance for individual counselling.”

Another parent expressed fears that a worse outcome could have resulted from the incident on the oval.

“One day there’s going to be a one-punch incident at the school that a child will regret for the rest of their lives,” the parent said.

“The boy in this scenario was lucky not to sustain a brain injury.”

A number of Cockatoo Primary parents told the Gazette they had lodged formal complaints to the Department of Education over the years.

The department failed to respond to the Gazette’s request for details concerning these complaints.

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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