HARKER HEIGHTS — Harker Heights High School freshman Hannah Combs loved her hair, but after a bullying incident at school last week, she had to partially shave her head. Now, her parents are calling for justice.
Hannah, 15, arrived at school Sept. 14 and met up with her friends outside the front of the building. While she was talking to one of her friends, a boy came from behind and poured super glue on her head, getting it all over her hair and her scalp.
“It instantly started burning,” Hannah said. “It felt like my head was on fire. It was horrible.”
One of Hannah’s friends called her parents while Hannah went to the nurse’s office to get treated. There, an assistant principal questioned her, but Hannah could barely speak as she waited for the pain to go away.
When Christian Grimmer, Hannah’s father, arrived, he said he became furious at the lack of action he saw from the school staff. The administration had not taken the boy into custody and did not until Grimmer threatened to call 911, according to the family. Grimmer, a retired soldier, also said an assistant principal got in his face, telling him to calm down and “take that attitude elsewhere.”
After leaving the school, Grimmer took Hannah to a doctor, who diagnosed her with a first-degree chemical burn on her scalp.
Later that evening, Hannah and her mother, Jessica Grimmer, decided to get her head shaved. The pain did not go away until Wednesday, Hannah said, and it remains sore.
“I realized I lost my favorite thing about me. I loved my hair,” Hannah said. “My hair was the only thing I liked about myself, honestly. I lost it for no reason.”
Hannah’s parents said they believe the boy should be transferred to another school. They said they attempted to contact Killeen Independent School District Superintendent John Craft but did not get a response. They contacted school board member Shelley Wells and then got a call from the assistant director of student support services, but never heard back directly from Craft.
“Apparently this guy that we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to does not see the need to get involved. Then why do we need him?” Grimmer said.
“If they are going to have assistants, that’s fine. Then we don’t need a superintendent. You would think the superintendent’s priority would be school safety, but it is not any of his concern because he will not return any calls.”
School district statement
When questioned Monday about last week’s incident by the Herald, the school district issued the following statement: “Killeen ISD is committed to ensure the safety of all students, staff and parents. Therefore, the district considers this a very serious incident and has responded in accordance to state law, board policy and the student code of conduct. In doing so, the district also protects the rights provided to students under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and thus is unable to provide information pertaining to specific students and disciplinary measures instituted.”
Killeen ISD spokesman Shannon Rideout said Monday he would reach out to Craft to let him know about the parents’ concerns.
“He has no issues talking to anyone who wants to voice their concerns and addressing them,” Rideout said.
Hannah went back to school Sept. 15, and said she found out the boy who poured glue on her received in-school suspension. However, because they have mutual friends, she still happened to see him before school started.
She also went to school Wednesday and Thursday. Hannah and her parents continued to hope that as the Harker Heights High School administration continued its investigation, the boy would eventually be taken out of school.
Code of conduct
According to the school district’s student code of conduct, the Texas Education Code requires placement into a disciplinary alternative education program or expulsion from school for certain conduct, and allows the district to make placements or expel for other offenses.
According to the code of conduct, “A student SHALL be removed from the regular campus and placed into a DAEP if the student engages in conduct containing the elements of the offense of assault (with bodily injury) under 22.01(a)(1) of the Penal Code; (27,28).”
However, the code of conduct also classifies assault as a “serious offense” punishable by campus probation along with in-school suspension. Probation constitutes as a “final warning” before setting a DAEP hearing, according to the code of conduct.
Hannah’s parents said they think the boy should be transferred. They said one of the main factors in choosing their home was to send their children to Harker Heights High School.
“I’m not going to pull my daughter out and uproot her from her life because of what this kid did to her,” Christian Grimmier said. “That child that did this to her, uproot his life. He gave up the opportunity to go to Harker Heights when he committed the act.”
On Friday, the boy returned to class. During first period, Hannah said she became anxious and scared because she has the same second period class with the boy. She made the decision to call her dad to pick her up and take her home.
When Grimmer came to pick her up, he said he became angry because the boy should not have been in school, let alone in the same class with his daughter.
The principal confronted Grimmier and told him he needed to leave. He stayed and signed his daughter out at the attendance office, at which time a Killeen Independent School District police officer gave him a trespass warning. The school did not release Hannah until her father went to the parking lot.
It was not until after Grimmer picked his daughter up that the Harker Heights administration told him they would change the boy’s class schedule.
“They are not being proactive; they are being reactive,” Grimmer said.
Upset with the school system’s handling of the situation, on Friday, Jessica Grimmer posted to Facebook a description of the bullying incident and pictures of her daughter’s new haircut. To her surprise, the post started to garner attention not just locally, but from across the nation.
As of late Monday, the post had more than 7,600 likes. Jessica Grimmer also created a page on Facebook called “Justice for Hannah” that has received more than 450 likes.
The response has been just unbelievable,” Jessica Grimmer said. “There are responses from South Africa. It’s everywhere. The outpour(ing) is beautifully overwhelming.”
Hannah, who enjoys drawing and participates in her school’s Junior ROTC program, said the response on Facebook has helped her stay positive.
“It makes me want to help other people,” Hannah said. “There are people who couldn’t stand up for themselves but they talk to me about it. It makes me want to help. It’s amazing how many people are supporting me.”
Hannah’s parents said they would keep her home until Killeen ISD transferred the boy to another school. On Monday, the parents said a school administrator called to tell the family the issue had been resolved and they could send her to school.
“If he’s still there,” Jessica Grimmer said, “we will find out.”