A video on social media shows teens fighting at the Guy E. Rowe School in Norway. According to reports, the father of one of the teens is egging them on while the teen’s mother films the fight.

OXFORD HILLS — The Oxford Hills middle and high schools shut down for two days switching to remote learning and a temporary emergency curfew is being discussed for Norway because of ongoing juvenile assaults on other juveniles, according to officials. And law enforcement agencies are frustrated with what they say has been an ongoing series of juvenile crime, charges and arrests and a justice system that does little.

After the latest assault which apparently happened on Friday, Sept. 25 and was video taped and posted to social media, two young men – ages 14 and 15 – were arrested and have been sent to Long Creek Youth Development Center.

Norway Police Chief Rob Federico said this is not the first incident with this group of juveniles. “They have been issued multiple summons, mostly by NPD, over the last couple of years.”

Paris Police Chief Michael Dailey said he thinks COVID-19 may have played a role in what appears to be leniency on the part of the justice system. “We all are somewhat restricted on who we send to jail and such,” said Dailey.

Dailey noted that his department first became aware of the problem on Saturday, Sept. 26, with the video. “We have heard complaints [before] but have been unable to substantiate them,” he explained. He said law enforcement has heightened its patrol of trails and other known gathering places.

A video of the assault that triggered the arrest of two teens shows one of the teens charged kicking and stomping on his victim.

And the current assault is just the beginning of a tide of response throughout the community. A large group of community adults descended on the home of one assaulter demanding he come out so they could retaliate. Law enforcement had to break up the angry group. Another interaction happened on the Guy E. Rowe School playground on a recent evening with parents involved. In a video of that assault the parents of one of the teens charged can be seen encouraging the fight while the other videotapes it, according to law enforcement. And finally, another fight has been said to have happened on the Norway rail trail recently.

Other community members held a demonstration across from the high school Monday night, with signs saying “Do the crime, do the time – hold them liable” and “Keep our kids safe … end bullying.” While they stood there, according to reports, the assaulters went by in cars shouting obscenities at them.

And then Tuesday, with the juveniles in court, a group gathered outside the courthouse, some supporting the victim and others supporting the suspects, and the affair ended with yet another assault and summonses issued. The two teens were remanded to Long Creek following their court appearance.

And on various social media accounts, the kids are laughing and sharing obscenities while community members are threatening retaliation.

One young female teen’s social media response to that is:  “I don’t give a flying ****. i promise you i do not care.” The same girl can be seen spitting on the victim while he is being kicked in the head in the social media post.
School closure
SAD 17 Superintendent of School Rick Colpitts said he wasn’t aware of the recent incident until Monday morning and, after speaking with the lead detective regarding the assaults, they decided that because “some students became uneasy and interpreted social media posts as threats, we felt that to ease their fear and enable the police to conclude their investigation, we would close the schools for two days and switch to remote learning during that time.” Both schools were closed because both middle and high schools students were involved.
Coming at an extremely hectic time, with the county being heightened to code yellow for COVID-19 outbreaks, and the district needing to switch from its green designation to yellow which requires stricter protocols, the need to deal with the juvenile issue has stretched resources and affected staff and students.
The Friday incident occurred on the Viking trail; a trail maintained and operated by Healthy Oxford Hills and Stephens Memorial Hospital.
Frustration

In spite of monthly police intervention, the justice system appears to have failed the community, allowing these boys to continue to terrorize others in spite of curfews and release conditions that they stay out of the town of Norway. Conditions agreed to and signed for by parents.

And yet, according to law enforcement, it’s the parents who are driving and dropping them off in town where they gather with other young voyeurs, phone cameras at the ready, to film the assault of a new victim.

“We have issued curfews and no entry into Norway, signed by the parents, and yet the parents know they are ignoring it,” said a frustrated Rob Federico, chief of the Norway Police Department.

The juveniles have received multiple summonses for their actions, which began in the spring and have escalated in the past month. At least two teens have had contact with the Norway police at least 53 times since May. Federico said his department has been dealing with this troublesome group of teens for several months. He described them as “rude, loudmouth punks.”

Federico admitted to being frustrated with the juvenile justice system. Even with multiple misdemeanor offenses, little has been done to quell the violence. Because the charges are misdemeanors, the juvenile system releases the teens to their parents or guardians, and the cycle of violence continues. The chief said he wishes the multiple of misdemeanor charges would add up to something more serious.

The attack Friday on the Viking Trail that sent one of the victims to the hospital was the kind of escalation Federico feared with the growing tension and the increasing level of violence. The injuries and the video evidence allowed Paris police to charge two of the teens with aggravated assault instead of a misdemeanor.

“What we need,” said Federico, “is accountability. Everyone needs to be held accountable – the parents, the JCCO (Juvenile Community Corrections Officer), the schools, the police, kids, judges and DAs.”

SRO Christina Sugars added that area law enforcement must also work together as a team.

Community

According to Alishia Sessions, whose son was attacked earlier this month by the group, a Snapchat post Tuesday afternoon threatened 14 fights in 14 days.

Sessions said the lack of consequences has emboldened the group.

“They feel they can get away with anything they want,” Sessions said.

The attackers, which included at least one female, punched and kicked their defenseless victims after they were knocked to the ground. One of the victims was hospitalized. Two to three bystanders videotaped the fracas and posted it to Facebook. Police used the video to identify the attackers.

By Wednesday, a new social media account had been created called Oxford Hills Parents Against Bullys. On the Facebook page, other parents share photos of their children after they were assaulted by the same teen group.

Many Facebook posts – on both sides – threaten to take matters in their own hands.

Sessions said she won’t be intimidated.

“People are scared,” she said. “They’re being threatened. They feel their kids will be next if they speak out. That’s what we’re trying to stop.”

More charges are likely, Paris Police Chief Michael Dailey said.

Sun Journal writer Steve Sherlock contributed to this story.


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