A pattern of bullying and an alleged bathroom assault against a non-binary middle school student in Camden County has led the child’s mother to pull them out of school.
Rowena Cason said her child, 11-year-old Morgaine Blanchard, identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns “they/them.” She said Blanchard has faced bullying at school and teachers who refuse to use the pronouns.
“The pushback started pretty immediately,” Cason said. “It was made very, very clear to me that none of the staff had any intention of following the requested pronouns.”
Since the start of the school year, Cason said Blanchard has been picked on by students at Camden Middle School, without teachers correcting the behavior.
She said it’s the environment at the school that led to what happened on Monday.
Cason said she got a call from the school in the morning.
“The school nurse said to me, ‘There’s been an incident and Morgaine is in my office,'” Cason said.
Cason said Blanchard was in the school bathroom when they were hit in the back of the head and briefly blacked out.
According to a Kingsland Police Department report, Blanchard went to the nurse’s office complaining of a headache, dizziness and nausea. Blanchard was later taken to the hospital nearby to be checked out.
“It’s gonna be a very long road before my 11-year-old is going to be able to go back to school,” Cason said. “I feel that if the school system had handled it differently, that child never would have felt that that was an acceptable way to behave.”
A statement from Kingsland Police said the child who hit Blanchard told an officer that it was part of a game students at the school were playing where they hit each other on the back of the head.
“These are our kids and you are allowing our kids to be beat at school,” said Haley Webb, Blanchard’s caregiver while Cason has been away, and a longtime family friend. “That is not okay.”
Webb met up with Blanchard at the hospital following the incident.
She said she hopes what happened will lead to more diversity training for faculty and staff at Camden County Schools, specifically around the concepts of gender identity and the use of pronouns.
“There are different programs and seminars that are out there for staff and for students that can be brought into the school system,” Webb said. “We are highly advocating for that, to have inclusion programs and a safe space for students.”
Kingsland Police released the following statement:
“On February 1, 2021 a school resource officer with the Kingsland Police
Department who was located at the Camden County Middle School made contact with a child in the school nurse’s office. The child was complaining of a headache, and reported to the nurse that she had been slapped in the back
of her head. At that time no visible or physical injury was observed. The
child indicated that her being struck was the result of a game, that other
children play. At the request of the child’s parent the child was transported for medical treatment at a local facility. Through interviews with witnesses at the school, the other child in the incident was identified. The child made statements that striking the other child had been part of a game, and that she had apologized. A review of school surveillance revealed that the incident took place over a three-minute period, and the child who was struck can be seen walking unassisted to and from the restroom where the incident occurred. A Kingsland Police Detective is currently assigned to the case as the investigation continues. Over the course of the investigation there have been no indications that the incident was motivated by any bias. The police
department has reached out to the parents of the child, however no call has been returned at this time. The Kingsland Police Department is working
in conjunction with the Camden County Middle School Administration for a
resolution in the case. The police department considers the safety of
schools to be a priority. All alleged acts of violence within the schools are investigated by school resource officers who receive specialized training in school based investigations.”
Both Cason and Webb said the student who hit Blanchard has not apologized.
Since Kingsland Police sent the statement on Tuesday, Cason said she has had contact with the department which she said has no plans to charge the student involved.
First Coast News reached out to Camden County Schools. Spokesperson Phoebe Floyd provided this statement:
“Out of respect for student privacy, Camden County Schools does not publicly offer comment on any student-specific questions or concerns. Camden County Schools is committed to meeting the diverse needs of our 9000 students in a safe, equitable, and nurturing learning environment. We work daily to create an educational community where our students, employees, and visitors feel welcome, valued, and respected.”
When asked, Floyd did not respond to questions of whether faculty at Camden schools are instructed to use students’ preferred pronouns, or whether any diversity training for staff includes the concept of gender identity.