Seven Snelson-Golden Middle School students charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction after a May 2011 incident on a school bus had their day in court recently.
And though the records are not available to the public because the students are juveniles, representatives from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the Liberty County School System both say they are pleased with the results.
“It followed the judicial process, and seven of them were adjudicated, and I can’t elaborate any further,” Sheriff Steve Sikes said. “I think justice prevailed.”
In December, all seven students — who are not identified because of their age — reportedly pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.
While Sikes confirmed that the rulings validate the actions of the sheriff’s office, he could not offer any more information about the case, which generated a wave of negative publicity for both the sheriff’s office and the school system when the students involved shared their stories with Savannah television stations.
Last summer, the Liberty County Branch of the NAACP conducted an investigation into how officers and school employees handled the incident, and in their conclusion they called for an outside investigation.
On Friday, NAACP Liberty Branch President Dwight Newbould said that no outside agency, such as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, responded to the request for an outside investigation, and that he met with the sheriff’s office once and never heard back.
“The NAACP was not happy with the punishment, but we still stand behind our original point that this incident had a lot of wrongs done by various entities,” he said. “We truly believe that if you’re going to dispense justice on any part of the incident, it should be dispensed on all parts, and we stand by our statements that we still believe there is more justice that could be put into play on this incident.”
Though the proceedings were closed, Newbould said he heard the children were sentenced to a range from time in a youth detention center to probation to writing letters of apology.
“I think it was a learning experience for the parents and the kids, that, definitely understand that your actions have consequences, and that we should all learn to think before we act out of emotion,” he said. “And to be aware of who’s in charge when law enforcement is on the premises — but for our young people ages 10-14, understand they’re still young-minded.”
Savannah attorney Sharla Gorman, who represented one of the students, said that most of the cases were heard Jan. 18, and added that in juvenile court, the defendants are either found “delinquent” or “non-delinquent.”
“My client was adjudicated as delinquent, and we were not happy with the results, but the matter was finalized in the juvenile court,” she said. “She’s happy to have completed whatever punishment she completed, and is looking forward to being her teenage self and enjoying life.”
LCSS Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said she did not know enough about the rulings to elaborate, but she responded to what little she did know.
“We did what we were supposed to do, and we did it right,” Scherer said. “We are pleased that justice has prevailed and that both the school system and the sheriff’s office were found to have acted appropriately.”