Supporters of a family at the center of a school assault investigation are planning an anti-bullying rally this weekend in downtown Somerset.
The rally is scheduled to begin at noon this Saturday on Fountain Square.
Doug Ducheney of Bronston told the Commonwealth Journal that his family isn't organizing the event but he and his wife have given their approval for the effort in their son's name.
"They've gathered a ton of people and are going to do it this Saturday," Ducheney said. "I'm grateful that people are sticking up for my son."
Ducheney is the stepfather of a Southern Middle School student whose assault by a 13-year-old classmate was captured on video and circulated online before the offending teen's arrest last Friday by the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office. The video showed one boy standing before and punching a seated boy in the face.
The perpetrator has been charged with fourth-degree Assault and Terroristic Threatening.
Ducheney said he and his wife learned of the incident when someone sent them the video at 1 a.m., asking if that was their son. They have since learned, he said, of another video depicting another student in the same class stabbed the boy with a pencil. The Ducheneys have also contacted authorities about that incident.
Ducheney described his stepson as "hard to talk to" due to his special needs but added that the outpouring of support he has received has helped the boy tremendously. "When we show him that the people out there love him and care for him, he's opening up and talking more," Ducheney said.
According to Ducheney, he and his wife have removed their son from in-person instruction in hopes of switching to distance learning.
"The school won't even talk to us," Ducheney claimed. "They marked him absent today [Tuesday]. My wife called them up and they hung up on her."
One option, he continued, might be to enroll the boy in virtual classes through Wayne County Schools. That was the district he attended before Ducheney and his wife married last year.
"They took care of him down there," Ducheney said. "When he got up here, apparently [students] were beating him and we didn't know about it."
When the couple went to school administrators, Ducheney claims they did nothing but make students erase the videos so the Ducheneys then went to the sheriff's office. The parents kept their copies of the videos, and added that they are considering legal action against Pulaski County Schools.
"It's crazy what they do…," Ducheney said. "Bullying needs to stop in all schools."
Pulaski County Superintendent Patrick Richardson has defended the school's actions and noted all students have the option for distance learning.
"Our staff acted appropriately and followed proper protocol when they were made aware of the situation," Richardson said. "Distance learning and the virtual option is available to all students in the district at this time. Any time administration is made aware of an issue, it is investigated."
While he was initially raising funds through his Facebook page to hire an attorney, Ducheney said Tuesday that two of his stepson's therapists have contacted attorneys on the family's behalf so he'd like to use the money raised "to buy him something special."
"I don't care about any money," Ducheney said, "but my wife said if we have to sue for money, we'll put it back into my ministry and help others out with it."
For six years, he continued, he has been helping families in need with Christmas and birthday gifts -- as well as food deliveries and other assistance -- through Children Without a Gift Ministry.