Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd responded to questions and released an additional statement concerning an April 22 incident at Wilkes Central High School that resulted in five students being charged with simple assault by the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office.

A sheriff’s office report said the incident involved male students at Wilkes Central wrestling in a locker room area during the school day.

According to TV news reports, a video of the incident recorded on a cell phone by another student showed five students wrestling another student to the ground. TV news reports said the video showed one of the five students “shoving a broom handle on the victim’s rear end.” The video was posted online and then removed.

In responding to questions from the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, Byrd said a student shared the video of the incident with a teacher, who immediately informed school administration. School administration then reported the incident to Deputy Dakota Becerra of the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office upon his return to campus the following day. Becerra is the school resource officer for Wilkes Central.

Major Logan Kerr of the sheriff’s office said the father of the victim also reported the incident to the sheriff’s office.

Byrd released the following statement Wednesday morning, which is in addition to a statement he released July 9:

“While we regret that this incident took place, as with any incident involving student safety, this matter was taken very seriously when addressed at the school level in April 2021. To that end, we would like to address the following discrepancies in prior news reports.

“First, while it was reported that the father (of the victim) was not contacted by the school following the incident, he was contacted by school administration and came to the school on the day in question.

“Second, the story referenced the term ‘horseplay’ being used by the principal (Dr. Leon Stocks) to describe the incident. His words were consistent with those used by the students to describe the incident when being investigated. The principal also used the term ‘highly inappropriate’ to describe the conduct of students, which was not referenced in the story.”

(In responding to questions from the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, Byrd further explained that when Stocks used the general term “horseplay” while talking to parents, he wasn’t using it to dismiss the incident.)

“Third, the report incorrectly stated that law enforcement was not contacted when, in fact, the school resource officer (Becerra) was made aware of the incident upon his return to campus the next day (April 23).

“Fourth, the report incorrectly stated that the principal did not inform parents when, in fact, the parents of all involved students were contacted the day of the incident.

“Fifth, the report incorrectly stated that the principal did nothing to stop students from sharing the video when, in fact, school personnel tried to prevent students from further transmission of the video as soon as they were aware of its existence.

“The concerns shared by this parent in the story were addressed and taken seriously by leadership at both the school and the district level.”

“While some question the timeliness of the school district in responding to the report of this incident, please understand that we have maintained confidentiality out of respect for all parties involved.”

In response to questions from the newspaper, Byrd said students involved in the incident were in the locker room changing clothes after a weightlifting class.

When asked what school policy addresses adult supervision and student safety in locker rooms, Byrd said, “A locker room is an extension of the classroom and, as with all school grounds, it is expected that staff provide reasonable supervision of students at all times, pursuant to Wilkes County Schools Board Policy 1510.”

Two of the five students charged with simple assault are 18 so they were charged as adults. Juvenile petitions were taken out charging the other three with simple assault because they were under 18 when the incident occurred. Two were 16 and one was 15. The victim also was 15.

The two 18-year-olds are Andrew James Call and Terry Steven Hayes Jr. both of Wilkesboro. The warrant charging Call said he grabbed the victim and held him down on the ground. The warrant charging Hayes said he shoved a broom handle against the victim’s buttocks.

Hayes and Call are scheduled to be in Wilkes District Court on Aug. 4.

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