VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - To view Reporter Andy Fox's original report on this story, click here.
The mother of a Virginia Beach seventh grader suspended for firing an airsoft gun says the school system is now bullying her child. School Chairman Daniel Edwards “tweeted" a statement Tuesday night that included her son’s disciplinary record.
Khalid Caraballo and two friends were suspended for at least four months for possession, handling, and use of an airsoft gun. The School System says the boys were "shooting an airsoft gun at people near a school bus stop” on September 12.
The School System insists the children were on the public road and shooting at others who were not willing participators. However, the suspension was not enough for Edwards, and he released Caraballo's private disciplinary record via social media.
On September 18, when WAVY.com started investigating Khalid’s story, WAVY’s Andy Fox went to Virginia Beach City Public School’s administration and got a Privacy Act Waiver. It is the only way we could get the school system's side of the story. Fox took the waiver to Khalid's mother, Solangel Caraballo, had her sign it, and returned it to the school system’s administration.
Virginia Beach Schools refused to provide any on-camera interviews, and after repeated calls for a statement on the suspensions, administrators finally sent a letter from Larkspur Middle School Principal Matthew Delaney on Monday morning.
Delaney’s statement and a related 911 call from September 9 were added to the report that aired at 6 p.m. Monday on WAVY News 10. Both were also published with the corresponding article on WAVY.com. During our report Monday, Virginia Beach Public Schools posted a tweet that said WAVY did not air Delaney's letter.
In Principal Delaney’s letter, he claims his investigation found on September 12 the "children were firing pellet guns at each other and at people near the bus stop ... A child was only 10 feet from the bus stop and ran from the shots being fired, but was still hit."
Delaney made it clear his investigation found the children were running on the street and had left Khalid's private property. Khalid disagrees with that, and the other children confirm Khalid never left his property.
What WAVY.com did not know on Monday was there was another related 911 call from September 12 – the day of the incident that got the boys in trouble. We learned of that second call Tuesday morning when Virginia Beach City Public Schools posted it on Facebook and claimed WAVY had not covered the call in Monday’s report.
Had WAVY known that call existed, it would certainly have been included in Monday’s report because it further proves Khalid was not one of the children running on the street.
“I never left the property ... I never shot at anyone who was not on the property involved in the airsoft war ... when the bus came, I put up the gun, grabbed my book bag, went to the bus stop, and went to school,” Khalid told WAVY.com.
Later that day, Khalid and two others were suspended with a recommendation from Principal Delaney that they be expelled for a year.
During a hearing with a disciplinary committee Tuesday morning, Aidan Clark, Khalid Caraballo and a third friend were given long-term suspensions in a unanimous vote. The suspensions will last until June, but a hearing will be held January 27 to determine if they will be allowed back in school sooner.
The boys’ parents still feel as though the punishment is much like an expulsion.
“I’m more than angry … it’s like an expulsion-suspension,” said Tim Clark, Aidan's father.
Khalid's mother, Solangel Caraballo, thinks it is ridiculous her 13-year-old son was suspended because he fired a spring-driven airsoft gun on the Caraballo's private property.
"My son is my private property," she said. "He does not become the school's property until he goes to the bus stop, gets on the bus, and goes to school."
But in a Twitter post Tuesday evening, Virginia Beach School Board Chairman Daniel Edwards attached a letter defending the school’s disciplinary actions against the boys: "Yet somehow student safety has taken a back seat in the intense media coverage of this case. This is not an example of a public educator overreaching. This was not zero tolerance at all. This was a measured response to a threat to student safety."
In the letter, Edwards also released private information about Khalid's previous discipline issues at school. His parents told 10 On Your Side they are upset by that and said they signed a waiver for the school system to talk to WAVY about the airsoft incident only.
"Come on, they already made this decision that he can't return to their school until next year. Isn't that punishment enough?” said Solangel.
In the tweet, Edwards said, "We can share that this is not Khalid Caraballo's first disciplinary infraction. He has been disciplined six times in less than 18 months for increasingly aggressive behavior including harassment, bullying and fighting that resulted in injuries."
"I think he's a bully to attack him," said Solangel. "I was shocked that a grown man with authority over the school system would tweet about Khalid's past ... He's 13-years-old ... it had nothing to do with him playing in the front yard."
Edwards refused an on-camera interview with WAVY.com to explain his motive.
WAVY's Andy Fox asked Khalid about the disciplinary issues Edwards mentioned. He said the worst was a fight that got him three days suspension.
"I said, ‘can you please move?’ He was older and he punched me in the face. I hit him back,” Khalid said.
Khalid said the older child who threw the first punch got five days suspension.
Edwards tweeted statement says he thought the school system could release the disciplinary record because, "Ms.Caraballo signed a waiver and chose to make this a public conversation."
Caraballo counters and said Edwards went way beyond what is reasonable to release.
"No news media asked him to say anything about that. No one said, 'oh can you release that record?' Releasing Khalid's disciplinary record on social networking is cyber bulling,” Solangel said.
Attorney Kevin Martingayle, who often argues cases involving the Virginia Beach School Board, spoke with WAVY.com about the incident.
"It is my general understanding that the [waiver] is typically used for permission for the school to release information to credentialed media and not to issue press releases to make itself look better,” Martingayle said. “Even if you have a waiver, I think it is incumbent on the school board to exercise restraint from saying anything that is unnecessary, and to say only things that are directly relevant. I'm not sure everything mentioned is relevant."
Khalid also thinks making his past public knowledge was unfair.
"Yes, why did he do it? Because it had nothing to do with an airsoft gun or me playing in my front yard,” he said.
"I don't think it is appropriate to bring up the young man's disciplinary record unless it is directly related, and linked to the story that is in the news,” Martingayle said.
Khalid says all the witnesses that the school system has in the case against him were at one point involved in the airsoft gun war or visited him on his private property. Khalid's two friends, including Aidan Clark, left Khalid's property and chased each other, but those involved say Khalid never left his property. The Sept. 12 911 caller supported that.
WAVY emailed Virginia Beach Schools Spokesperson Jennifer McCarrel and asked what the relevance of releasing Khalid's disciplinary record to the public was. She did not address that question. WAVY.com is still waiting for the answer.
Until the hearing in January, the boys will either attend an alternative school called Renaissance Academy or be homeschooled. Aidan's father said his son will be homeschooled. Khalid will attend an alternative school.
Khalid and his mother are scheduled to go to the Renaissance Academy Thursday to register for classes.
Solangel thinks WAVY’s coverage and the massive response led the school to downgrade the recommended expulsion to a long-term suspension.
"There's no doubt in my mind that had you not become involved we would be nowhere,” she said.
WAVY.com wants to know what you think about the school's decision to suspend the students. Leave your comments below.
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