A Virginia mother expressed outrage after a teenage classmate set her 13-year-old son’s hair ablaze on Jan. 13.
The young boy’s mother, Ronica Wilson, said school administrators called her shortly after her son was burned. They told her that due to COVID-19 restrictions, their math class had lunch in the classroom instead of the cafeteria. A student approached her son with a lighter and followed him around with it. The student proceeded to flick her lighter at her classmate as he got up to throw away his trash and set his hair on fire. NBC 12 reported that the incident occurred at John Rolfe Middle School in Henrico County on Jan. 12.
“You can only imagine how a 13-year-old would feel at that moment,” Wilson said. “You’re not an adult. You don’t know what to do. He’s probably scared, and I’m scared for him.”
When Wilson arrived at the school, she saw her son’s head burned to the scalp. Initially, he had shoulder-length curly hair, which she described as “long, curly, just a nice head of hair, it was beautiful,” to the news station. She also said that his ears, head, and neck were scarred. The injuries were not life-threatening.
“He was hysterical; he looked scared,” Wilson said. “His pride emotionally and mentally is broken.” Despite this, she said that her son did not want to press charges against his classmate but, she felt differently.
“What if this was your child? What would you be? Would you be livid? Would you be devastated? How would you feel?” Wilson asked. “Would you feel supported by Henrico County Schools?”
Police said that the officers and members of the Henrico Fire Department, responded to a call from the middle school on Messer Road at 12:30 p.m. regarding a burn victim . When firefighters arrived, they took the burned boy to VCU Medical Center where hospital staff treated him for second and third-degree burns.
John Rolfe Middle School’s principal, Debbie George, sent a statement to students and parents following the incident that read, “This is Ms. George, principal of John Rolfe Middle School. I’m calling to let you know about an incident that took place in your child’s science class today. A student was burned by a classmate who was playing with a lighter. The injured student was taken to the hospital and is receiving treatment. Here at school, we are reviewing the incident to ensure something like this does not happen again and taking appropriate disciplinary action as necessary. Thank you.”
Unfortunately, the statement wasn’t enough for Wilson, as she felt that the school could have done more to prevent her son’s traumatic experience.
“You can’t just brush this under the rug and think that it’s going to just go away. It’s not,” Wilson said. “My son is severely hurt, he’s suffering, and it’s not fair to me it’s not fair to him, so y’all just need to be held accountable.”
Despite the trauma her son endured, she said he is holding up well.
“He said it really hurt. He said it was hot and that his ear hurts a lot,” Wilson told reporters. “Other than that, he said he’s okay. He’s a trooper, you know. He’s real strong. He’s real strong. He’s stronger than me.”
Her son’s classmates have reportedly reached out to her and said they plan to cut their hair off in solidarity with him.
On Jan. 13, the Henrico Fire Marshal’s Office charged the teen with unlawful wounding. She will appear at the Juvenile and Domestic Court.