School throws softball punishment at star athlete accused of bullying, mother says

A mother said Swain County Middle School officials did not do enough to punish the eighth-grade baseball player who photographed her son's genitals and spread the image. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

BRYSON CITY, N.C. (WLOS) - A local mother turned to WLOS with concerns over a bullying incident involving her 11-year-old son.

According to Nicole Parton, an eighth-grader photographed her son's genitals and spread the image.

Swain County sheriff's deputies started an investigation into the incident.

Parton said Swain County Middle School officials did not do enough to punish the eighth-grader, who is on the school's baseball team.

"He was at baseball practice. They were practicing inside at Swain County Rec Center. He went to the bathroom," Parton said.

Parton said the eighth-grade teammate followed her sixth-grade son, placed his phone over a stall and took a picture of her son.

"He then went out of the bathroom and showed the picture, which was of my son's penis, to his teammates," Parton said.

She said they ridiculed him, even into that night during a video game group chat.

“And another boy, who was not on the team, said, 'Oh, hey, I seen the picture. I heard about your picture,' and started making fun of him, yet again," Parton said.

Parton said the school's principal suspended the eighth-grader for several days starting April 27, and, under the school district's policy, the student was barred from baseball for that month.

So, she said, he missed one game and came back in May.

"This kid in particular is one of the star players," Parton said.

In particular, Parton said, she thought he was thrown a softball.

So, she talked to the coach.

"His reply to us was taking baseball away from a natural athlete, as this kid, this boy, is too harsh of a punishment. It's not fair to him," Parton said.

What was not fair, Parton said, was the bullying continued on social media.

She said it got so bad, her son quit the team. But, she would not quit fighting for her son.

"The problem is they're sending the wrong message to my son and other kids that are bullied,” Parton said. “That coming forward and reporting it, you're going to suffer the consequences, but a bully is going to get smacked on the hand."

WLOS reached out to Superintendent Janet Clapsaddle but did not hear back by the time this article was posted.

Sheriff Curtis Cochran said his investigators handed the case over to a juvenile court counselor.

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