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Board to weigh alleged assault

Thu., May 19, 2011, midnight

Victim’s mother calls bus incident ‘criminal’

The mother of a Kellogg High School student who was allegedly stripped by other girls during a bus ride earlier this month said she’s angry that her daughter’s assailants might not be adequately punished.

Heidi Hershly of Rapid City, S.D., said the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office told her Wednesday that her daughter’s case would be heard by a “diversion board” Tuesday.

“They’re going to determine whether it’s suitable for diversion,” said Hershly, who drove 1,000 miles from South Dakota Tuesday night so she could be in Kellogg Wednesday for a school board meeting at which she said the incident would be discussed.

“I don’t want diversion,” Hershly said. “I want a message sent loud and clear to everybody. What they did to my daughter was criminal. It was assault. It was battery. These girls weren’t 18. It’s not just about my daughter. It’s about setting a precedent.”

Diversion is a program in which juvenile offenses are not handled by the courts. Instead, youths deemed suitable – perhaps because they have no prior offenses – are directed toward programs including counseling or behavior modification, said Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh.

McHugh said he cannot release any information about his charging decision regarding the three girls accused of stripping the clothes off their classmate on a school bus when the softball team was returning from a game. Hershly said the incident occurred May 3.

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department last week recommended battery charges be filed against the girls. However, since the charges would be filed under the Juvenile Corrections Act, they are sealed, McHugh said.

“It would be inappropriate for me to even talk about whether charges are contemplated,” McHugh said.

Hershly said her daughter, who is 17, was restrained by her attackers and stripped naked. She said her daughter was sitting on the bus, wrapped only in a blanket.

“I want answers. I am devastated for my daughter,” Hershly said. “It needs to be dealt with. I want every kid to go to school and feel safe.”

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