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Girl hospitalized after fight at Las Vegas middle school

The grandmother sat in the corner at University Medical Center’s trauma unit and read the Bible on Thursday evening.

She quietly said a prayer for her granddaughter, a seventh-grader at O’Callaghan Middle School who on Wednesday was kneed in the back of the head by another student and had slipped into a coma.

But the girl had started to improve, the grandmother said.

“She’s not in a coma. She’s on life support. She’s moving her hands and her feet,” the grandmother said in between greeting family members who bent down to hug her.

As the family kept vigil inside the hospital, a candlelight vigil took place outside, drawing people who didn’t even know the family.

Less than 24 hours after news spread of the injured girl, anti-bullying advocates showed up at the Thursday vigil to denounce violence on Clark County School District campuses. They included Lavetta Schneider, who is Mrs. Nevada; Assemblyman David Parks, D-Las Vegas; community activist Gina Greisen; and Cheryl Prater, a concerned Summerlin resident whose son has been bullied.

“Bullying has got to stop, and we’ve got to put a stop to it now,” said Prater as family members of the injured girl prayed and lit candles near the hospital’s trauma unit.

Neither the School District nor the police have released details of the fight at the northeast valley school, near Washington Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard.

But a pair of the injured girl’s aunts insist that their niece had been bullied by the same seventh-grade girl for two months. They also said that the middle school knew about it. Because lawyers have told family members not to talk too much, family members avoided specifics, saying only that their niece had tried to inform school employees.

The district’s public information officer, Penny Ramos-Bennett, said the attack is being investigated by Las Vegas police and school police.

A Metro spokeswoman said that the department is assisting in the investigation. Officers responded to the scene at 1:45 p.m. after the Wednesday attack. Nobody has yet been arrested in connection with the fight, Metro spokeswoman Laura Meltzer said.

School Principal Belinda Jones sent a letter to O’Callaghan parents Thursday encouraging them to allow their children to express their feelings if they want to talk about the fight. Counselors are available if the children need them. She also said school police would be interviewing those who witnessed the fight.

According to at least a half-dozen students who were interviewed off campus on Thursday, the fight lasted at least five minutes, and it occurred in the quad in front of the registration area where visitors sign in. No teachers were around during the fight, students said.

Some of the onlookers recorded the brawl, according to sixth-graders Karl Cedric, 12, and Jacob Green, 12, and seventh-grader Javier Martinez-Delgado.

The students said that the fight occurred between 12:30 and 12:50 p.m. and that a bunch of girls had gathered to watch, in some cases encouraging the two girls involved.

“She fell to the ground, and her head hit the ground real hard,” Green said of the injured girl.

By the time hall monitors noticed what was happening, it was too late to prevent it, Martinez-Delgado said.

“It was terrible to watch,” Martinez-Delgado said. “She picked her up and kneed her in the back of the head, and that’s when she went down and hit the ground.”

Sixth-grader Vivian Brianna Michelle, 12, said that she heard the two girls involved talking to one another just before the fight broke out, but she didn’t know what was said.

News of the fight and the injured girl spread quickly to the Clark County School District.

District spokeswoman Kirsten Searer issued a statement on Thursday saying, “This is a terrible situation and our thoughts are with the student and her family. We immediately began investigating this situation and will fully cooperate with the police investigation.”

Mike Barton, the district’s chief student achievement officer, plans to issue a memo to all school employees, reminding them that “their number one priority” is to make sure that students are safe.

Contact Tom Ragan at tragan@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512. Find him on Twitter: @TomRagan2.

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