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DCPS Superintendent criticized when school bully story goes national

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Updated: 7/25/2013 8:24 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Backlash has been swift and severe. 
"Vitti is a moron."  "The superintendent is COMPLETELY WRONG."  Those are just two of more than a hundred comments that have been posted on the CBS News website after airing the story of Aria Jewett, an Oceanway Middle School student who was hospitalized after an on-camera beat down by a so-called serial bully.

"I didn't even know it was coming," said Jewett, 14.

Now, after the attacker's arrest and one successful attempt to get her banned from all Duval County public schools, a judge has put a temporary halt on the ban.  The girl seen in cell-phone video pinning Jewett to the ground and beating her mercilessly, is back in class, just not at Oceanway Middle.

Action News obtained the following statement from the suspect's attorney, Bryan Gowdy: "The Duval County Public School system has determined that it can provide a safe and secure enviroment for the child to continue her studies, and she is now back at school."

"I don't think we should use the bad decisions children make outside of school as an example or a scapegoat to make a message," Dr. Nikolai Vitti told CBS News.

Vitti said he believed Jewett's attacker deserves another chance and that she too was entitled to a public education. He's taking a lot of heat for that comment, with viewers saying, "Two people need to be punished over this. The bully and the school superintendent."

Vitti wasn't available for comment Monday. But after reaching out to every single school board member, Action News was able to talk to two.

Board member Jason Fischer reiterated what a school spokeswoman told us, that because this fight happened off school grounds, there's only so much the district can do. 

Board member Paula Wright told us the case shines a light on a much bigger problem. "It's becoming too popular to have students fight and have it shown on a video tape. That's my concern."

Vitti told CBS News, "It's a tough decision but my role as superintendent is to support the law and enforce the law."

Enforcing the law means letting the attacker back in school. But Fischer says they're keeping a close eye on her, and keeping her away from Aria. The district says it has seen no evidence that the suspect is a serial bully, even though Jewett says the 14-year-old girl has been involved in several similar incidents.

Jewett's attorney, T.C. Roberts, says he believes his client is safe now. But she still doesn't want to go to school. He says she's now being used as an example in class, her story being told every time the subject of bullying arises.

"Initially she was afraid to go back to school for fear of being attacked. Now it's more ridicule, shame that they put her through, using her as an example in class," said Roberts.  "This girl has been victimized enough," he said.
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