Mother of teen girl assaulted at Hazelbrook Middle School speaks out

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According to a joint media release by Washington County, the Tualatin Police Department, and the Tigard-Tualatin School District, “…the youth alleged to be responsible for the incident has been arrested and charged by the Tualatin Police Department.”
According to a joint media release by Washington County, the Tualatin Police Department, and the Tigard-Tualatin School District, “…the youth alleged to be responsible for the incident has been arrested and charged by the Tualatin Police Department.”
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…blames School District for creating environment that led to attack

Krista Kiniv still remembers the moment she was told her petite 13-year-old daughter had been the victim of a violent assault at Tualatin’s Hazelbrook Middle School (HMS).

“I learned about this when my husband said, ‘she’s been attacked,’ explains Ms. Kiniv, her parental anguish still showing in her voice. “It wasn’t registering. I was like, ‘attacked?’ I thought this is a new generation, and maybe they’re using the word attacked incorrectly, in a different way, because I just couldn’t wrap my head around the word ‘attacked.’

“But then I watched the video. It was horrible to see that happening to my child. I talked to her about an hour after I learned of the attack. I tried to be calm. I did not want to upset her more. When you see your child attacked so brutally, you feel helpless and heartbroken. It’s a feeling I can’t describe,” she added.

A Tualatin Police cruiser sits in front of Hazelbrook Middle School after the school was evacuated following a bomb threat.
A Tualatin Police cruiser sits in front of Hazelbrook Middle School after the school was evacuated following a bomb threat. Michael Antonelli/Tualatin Life

According to a joint media release by Washington County, the Tualatin Police Department, and the Tigard-Tualatin School District, “…the youth alleged to be responsible for the incident has been arrested and charged by the Tualatin Police Department.”

Little did Ms. Kiniv, or anyone else for that matter, know that within just a short time, the attack on her daughter would be a catalyst attracting global attention and plunging the Tigard-Tualatin School District (TTSD) into a maelstrom of controversy, which itself led to a sketchy bomb threat by a since-arrested teenager, followed by what authorities called a credible threat of violence against TTSD Superintendent Dr. Sue Rieke-Smith and School Board members, which led to the closure of the school on September 29.

The video of the attack on the 13-year-old girl is difficult to watch. She was jumped from behind by a much larger student and thrown to the ground. Her attacker grabbed her long hair and tossed her about violently. She was slugged repeatedly in the back. The assault ended when her attacker said, “Talk shit again, bitch,” striking her once more directly in the face. The attack was recorded on another student’s phone and uploaded to the Internet.

The video went viral, and parents concerned about what they felt was an atmosphere at the school that promoted this sort of violence sent the video to Riley Gaines, a world-famous female swimmer who is a strong opponent of transgender, formerly biological males competing against women in sports. This is when things really heated up.

Krista Kiniv
Krista Kiniv

Ms. Gaines posted the video on her account, identifying the attacker as a trans female. If the video had been viral, it now exploded like a nuclear bomb. Millions of people globally watched the video, and there was an outpouring of anger directed at the Tigard Tualatin School District.

In response, the TTSD Board of Directors issued a statement explaining, “This traumatic act was swiftly investigated by school administrators and turned over to law enforcement. The situation is now considered a criminal investigation,” but added this comment:

Ben Edtl
Ben Edtl

“Students and adults contributed to the sharing of this recording that exposed minors who were directly and indirectly involved without consent. In addition, the sharing of this incident has spread across the country and beyond, inspiring false information and a focus and discourse on gender identity. These acts have contributed to the trauma individuals and families are already experiencing.”

The District Statement did not explain what “false information” was “inspired,” but the District then doubled down, claiming teachers and parents at Hazelbrook Middle School were ultimately to blame for the TTSD PR problems arising after the attack. Adding fuel to the flames, a former Hazelbrook educator contacted local media, defending the administration and placing the blame for all the problems squarely on Hazelbrook’s parents and teachers.

Julianne Ackerman worked at the school for two years as a language arts teacher and equity coordinator, specifically dealing with LGBTQ+ students and students of color. In a televised interview on KGW and statements reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), Ms. Ackerman lambasted parents, teachers and the Hazelbrook community, saying they are responsible for all the problems at the school and the administration was blameless. Ms. Ackerman did not explain precisely how parents and teachers were responsible for the attack on the student.

These statements’ effect on the Hazelbrook community was akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull. The matter was further complicated when a second video made an appearance. Shot at Hazelbrook last year, this video showed the same student launching a similar attack on an even smaller girl, brutally knocking her to the ground. A female friend of that victim interceded on the girl’s behalf and got into a fistfight with the attacker, who finally knocked her to the ground, also.

Ben Edtl is an HMS parent, youth sports coach, Republican nominee for State Senate District 19, community activist, and founder and CEO of Free Oregon, which he says is a 501C4 civil rights organization. Mr. Edtl has been assisting Krista Kiniv as she attempts to enact change in the school and seek justice for her daughter.

“There were two girls attacked by this same individual last school year, and nothing was done,” said Mr. Edtl. “There were no repercussions, no disciplinary actions taken, and the child was left to continue bullying girls, eventually leading to this latest attack. These attacks, the first in which he attacked two girls, and then this latest attack, which became the viral video, both occurred within the last six months.

“Teachers at the school have told me this guy is a known girl bully. He bullies girls at the school and scares girls,” stated Mr. Edtl.

Ms. Kiniv said she was aware this student had attacked girls before at the school and was not prosecuted or expelled due to a process the school calls “restorative justice,” which seeks to work through problems with students rather than punish them.

“It was two girls this biological male student attacked,” stated Ms. Kiniv. “The more I started talking with the moms in the community, the more I learned this male student had been an issue, and the school hadn’t done anything about it. It seems, from my standpoint, that they really let him go unchecked and unchallenged. He was allowed to pick anyone as his victim, and unfortunately, my daughter happened to be his victim.”

Does she believe the attack on her daughter could have been prevented had the school taken prompt action after the first assault?

“Absolutely,” stated Ms. Kiniv in a firm voice. “I’m not sure why they let him come back after the first attack. My daughter’s attack could have been prevented had they removed him from the school. If a kid is allowed to beat other kids and just get a slap on the wrist, then what would make that student stop?

“I would love to know the reasoning behind it, because I’ve thought about it over and over. Why would you allow this to continue with no consequences whatever? I don’t understand it. I really don’t,” she said.

Statements by the School District were picked up by the news media and reported across the nation in stories that repeated what Mr. Edtl called the “unsupported claims of the District.”

“But as the videos went viral, conservative activists claimed without confirmation that the attacker was transgender based on the student’s appearance and clothes — and the student’s perceived identity quickly became the center of the uproar,” reported KGW TV. (Bold font added by writer.)

“Video of the incident was circulated on social media by conservative commentators, who concluded without confirmation that the attacker is transgender,” wrote Newsweek.

“Social media users jumped on the attacker’s clothing in the video and concluded without any confirmation that the student is transgender,” reported the New York Post.

“A press release from TTSD stated, ‘Conservative activists around the country are claiming the attacker was trans without evidence,’” stated Mr. Edtl. “So, my question is, how do you prove someone is trans or not? This is a boy… who proceeded to assault girls and was protected by TTSD due to his new trans status.”

Ms. Kiniv has contacted an attorney and is considering legal action against the school district. She also made it clear she has no issue with the assault video being public and believes TTSD’s only motivation is to hide failed administrative policies that led to the attack on her child.

“I agree there is lack of accountability at the school, and they sent out that email that basically chastised parents for sharing this video and letting everyone know what is going on inside these school walls that they are trying to sweep under the rug,” she added. “I didn’t want that to happen because I thought this attack, which was clearly premeditated, needed to be seen by people. Violence in our schools is a huge issue right now.

“It’s really frustrating from a parent’s perspective, and I know so many parents in that community feel nothing is being done and the school is just trying to shift blame. I feel like they want to cause more division instead of coming together with parents who really care and want what’s best for their kids and are trying to figure out what they can do better. Nobody’s perfect, and the school needs to make some serious changes,” stated Ms. Kiniv.

“I really hope all the parents in the District put their differences aside, stand up for our children, and make a positive change in the school district. Our kids are the most important asset we have in our lives. It’s our job to protect them, and we need to make sure violence isn’t going on in schools. It’s unacceptable,” she said.

A donation account to offset Ms. Kiniv’s legal fees has been set up at the crowdfunding site GiftSendGo. To donate, visit GiveSendGo.com/GB6N5.

As of press time, Tigard-Tualatin School District had yet to respond to our request for an interview.

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