Beacon Hill parent was accused of beating 11-year-old student two days before lockdownThe boundaries of the city of Decatur. Source: Google Maps
This story has been updated for clarity.
Decatur, GA — A Beacon Hill Middle School parent accused of biting a Decatur Police officer and causing a lockdown at the school was accused of severely beating an 11-year-old Beacon Hill student two days earlier, Decaturish has learned.
At this time, Decaturish is declining to name the 31-year-old woman and parent of a different child at Beacon Hill accused of beating the 11-year-old to avoid identifying her child. However, the victim’s father, Sky Jensen, said his family is willing to go on record about the case.
He told Decaturish his family is outraged that the woman accused of beating his son was released from custody following her mental health evaluation and that she could return to the school two days later. They are considering filing a lawsuit to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
“Someone having a mental crisis and attacking a child is beyond disturbing, and it’s even worse when it’s your child, and the next day they are walking free, and the day after that they commit another heinous violent attack on people,” Jensen said.
A mental health advocate says that Georgia is near the bottom of the country in providing mental health services. There aren’t enough resources to support people having a mental health crisis, the advocate said, while adding she is not familiar with the facts of this particular case.
On March 31, two days after his son was beaten, the woman accused of the crime showed up at Beacon Hill Middle, according to police and school staff. Jensen said his son was not at school that day and had already left for spring break. Police responded to Beacon Hill Middle on March 31 at 9:58 a.m. after the woman tried to meet with school administrators. She was unhappy with their response to her and “began to use vulgar language and make verbal threats towards staff,” according to Sgt. John Bender. The woman left, and police confronted her and began to arrest her on accusations of disorderly conduct and disrupting a public school. That’s when the woman began to struggle. She’s accused of striking a school employee and biting a police officer. She was also accused of possessing marijuana and had two other warrants.
Jensen said she shouldn’t have been out of police custody after she was accused of beating his 11-year-old son on March 29.
The attack happened near the railroad tracks at the intersection of West Howard Avenue and Commerce Drive. According to Jensen and the police department’s report, the woman began beating his son without explanation or warning. The 31-year-old woman is 4 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. Jensen said his son is 4 feet 11 inches and weights about 95 pounds. But, “He’s been taught never to raise his hand to an adult. He’s not going to do that. He’s a good kid.”
Jensen said his son curled into a ball while the woman repeatedly punched him, including in the head.
“The disturbing part is she never said anything,” Jensen said. “She didn’t scream. She didn’t say any words to him. She just started beating him, threw him to the ground and started beating him. He was terrified.”
A school crossing guard yelled at the woman to stop, distracting her long enough for Jensen’s son to get away. Jensen said about 40 witnesses saw the attack, but no one intervened. After his son got away, he ran towards the railroad tracks in the direction of Beacon Hill Middle and his friends. Then he called Jensen.
His son had two large bumps on the back of his head, one of which was caused by him hitting the ground, a bruise on his cheek and wounds on his back and shoulders.
When police found the woman, she was standing in the middle of the road. According to the police report, she appeared “disoriented and frozen.” She wouldn’t speak to officers and looked “spaced out,” the report says. As the officers continued to interview the woman, she told them she had a diagnosed mental illness. The officers learned she hadn’t taken her medication since February. She also told police she was an “avid marijuana user” and had recently used cannabis before the attack. Officers decided she was having a mental health crisis, and she was eventually transported to Grady Hospital for an evaluation.
The boy’s mother responded to the scene, and they took him to Emory Decatur Hospital, where he was evaluated and diagnosed with a likely concussion. The boy’s stepmother met them there. Jensen said he’s mad that no one tried to pull the woman off his son, and he’s afraid of what would’ve happened if the crossing guard had not interrupted the assault.
“Thank God, someone interrupted long enough for him to get away,” Jensen said.
Jensen said his son has been “very brave” and wanted to return to school the next day, March 30. Both Jensen and his son assumed the woman was in jail.
When Jensen followed up with police the next day, he was shocked to learn she was not in custody. “The officer told me, ‘Well, we’re working on getting a warrant to have her picked up,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean have her picked up? You mean she’s not in jail?”‘
The officer explained that once she was released from Grady, police had to obtain a warrant to arrest her.
“Her beating the shit out of my kid in front of 40 witnesses is not good enough to arrest somebody? Well, that’s a misdemeanor I found out,” Jensen said.
The woman was charged with battery in connection to the March 29 incident. The only felony charge she appears to be facing is obstructing of a law enforcement officer, stemming from the incident on March 31, according to jail records.
Jensen questioned how a 31-year-old woman could beat an 11-year-old and remain free. If the victim were an adult, he wondered if the response would’ve been different.
“I can’t go out in the street and beat somebody up and go home,” he said.
When Jensen got the email about the lockdown on Friday from Beacon Hill Middle, he wondered if it involved the woman accused of attacking his son.
“That would be insane if not only she was not arrested and showed up at the school and lost her mind,” Jensen said. “And, lo and behold, it was her and that’s where they arrested her.”
Jensen said his family is not “lawsuit happy” but wants to ensure that an adult who beats a child is not released from custody so soon after an incident.
“Why is beating a child in public not a more serious offense?” Jensen asked, adding later, “I never thought for a minute she would be walking free within 12 hours, how in the hell does that happen in our community?”
Decaturish asked police spokesperson Sgt. John Bender why the woman was not taken to jail after she left Grady Hospital.
“Grady Hospital made no notification to the police department about her release,” Bender said. “The police department had the belief in this case that the suspect was going to be held by the hospital for a mental health evaluation.”
Bender said officers who responded to the scene treated it as a criminal case first.
“In order for a police officer to involuntarily commit someone for a mental health evaluation there needs to be a crime committed by the person or a threat to self-harm,” Bender said. “In this case, it was immediately evident that the suspect was suffering from a mental health episode. This information was relayed to the victim in the case along with their parent. Both of those parties [agreed] while on the scene with our officers with getting the suspect help through the Georgia Mental Health Act. Decatur officers explained to the victim and their parent that the case would be followed up through DeKalb County Magistrate Court and a warrant would be obtained later on.”
Jensen said his family was not in the loop about what would happen after the woman was detained.
“We knew it was a mental health situation, but no one really explained what that meant as far as next steps or expectations,” he said. “We have really been in the dark about the whole thing.”
Kim Jones, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Georgia, said she couldn’t speak to the specifics of this case, but said the state ranks 48th out of 50 states in terms of access to mental healthcare. The state often only treats people when they’re in crisis, but not before or after an incident like the one that occurred on March 29 and March 31.
“Any person going to a mental health facility and being released, sometimes that’s just due to not having enough space and availability,” Jones said. “Right now we’re in an incredible workforce shortage. We find there’s an extreme lack of resources for people with mental health here in Georgia, and often times they are released before they should be and not given all the correct wraparound services to keep them out of the crisis.”
Jensen said his family is looking for the right attorney to help them get justice for their son. While everyone is concerned for the woman involved, he doesn’t feel the same concern has been shown for the child she’s accused of harming.
“Our family grapples with mental illness on multiple levels, and we are very supportive of programs and the fact that more needs to be done with regard to treatment and support,” Jensen said. “We are not unsympathetic to these challenges in our community or to the assailant’s condition, but the safety of children is a grave concern when it is eclipsed by worry for the individual suffering a crisis, particularly when they become capable of harming a child.”
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