By John Miller Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho — The guardian of a northern Idaho fifth-grader was upset Thursday with a school’s response after she says a man entered a classroom, harassed and assaulted children and put her grandson in a chokehold.
Jerry Peery said other parents in the small, rural town of Craigmont called police after hearing what happened from their children after classes let out Monday. She says school staff should have contacted authorities immediately.
Peery says 36-year-old Byron Scott Edwards assaulted her 10-year-old grandson in an incident in a classroom at Highland School, a small, 180-student school for kindergarten through 12th-graders on Idaho’s Camas Prairie.
“The police were called only after the kids came home and started telling us parents what went wrong,” she said. “I would at least like an apology.”
On Thursday, after several days of investigation, a Lewis County Magistrate Judge issued an arrest warrant for Edwards. Investigators want to question Edwards about his role in the episode. The warrant accuses him of three counts of injury to a child.
Edwards is now in jail in neighboring Nez Perce County, where he has been held since being arrested Tuesday on felony theft and methamphetamine charges from Umatilla, Ore., according to jail officials. Lewis County authorities contacted Nez Perce County Sheriff’s office, asking that Edwards be detained on the Oregon warrants while they continued their investigation into what happened at the school.
Edwards was not available for comment Thursday.
It was not clear whether he had an attorney.
But his wife, Shana Edwards, said she’s heard a different version of the story through her son, who was also in the classroom: Her husband had been given permission by school officials to assist students and was “roughhousing” with kids before he sought to discipline Peery’s grandson after he had said something inappropriate.
Shana Edwards hasn’t spoken with her husband yet in jail in Lewiston, but said she doesn’t believe he physically disciplined the other boy.
“I doubt that he would slap a child,” she said. “People that know us, know that my husband would not do that.”
Edwards has a history of felony convictions in Oregon, including for burglary, robbery and unauthorized use of vehicles.
Authorities in Lewis County are investigating Monday’s incident, Lewis County Prosecutor Zachary Pall said. He declined to comment on specifics of the case.
Peery says this is how her grandson described the incident: Edwards entered the class Monday morning and became upset over something her grandson said to his son.
“He got very upset with the kids” and kicked some of her grandson’s friends, she said. “He tripped my granddaughter, as she was going down the aisle. He put my grandson in a chokehold,” Peery said.
“One of the students said his feet were off the floor, and another student told her mom, which got back to us, that his face turned purple,” she said.
The teacher at the time, a substitute, did nothing, Peery said.
After about a half hour, a student went to the office and reported what was happening, she said.
Shana Edwards’ son, meanwhile, had a different story: That the chokehold happened while kids were playing with Edwards, not while he was seeking to discipline Peery’s son.
She said part of the problem is, her family moved to a home near Craigmont less than three years ago; they’re still considered “outsiders,” she said.
“It’s insulting, it’s upsetting for my kids at Christmas to be without their dad,” Shana Edwards said. “And we’re not going to let people with pitchforks drive us out of town for something a kid said my husband did.”
After an unidentified student came to the school’s office to report something happening in the classroom, Highland School District Superintendent Cindy Orr said she went to investigate and found Edwards coming out of the room.
“He seemed frustrated but not agitated,” she said, adding he wanted to tell her his side of the story.
Orr said when Edwards left with his son, he was calm. She said she had no fears that he might harm the child. She also said he had followed the school’s procedures. The school has a policy of allowing parents into classrooms, provided they don’t cause a disruption, she said.
When deputies from Lewis County arrived Monday afternoon, Orr also said she hadn’t called them yet because she was still trying to determine what had happened in the class.
“It wasn’t because we weren’t going to do something,” Orr said. “We just hadn’t gotten to that point yet.”
Peery contends that isn’t good enough.
She said staff should have reacted more quickly, especially given attention to safety issues following last week’s mass school shooting in Connecticut where 20 young children and six school employees were killed.
“I’d like the school to admit they were wrong,” Peery said, adding she’s hired a lawyer.