The blogsphere went nuts Wednesday over the story of Athens, Texas teen, 13-year-old Melanie Bowers. According to local reports, Melanie brought her assignment (make a protest sign for or against an issue) to her history class, and all hell broke loose. The sign read, "If you love our nation, stop illegal immigration."
While many of us agree with the sentiment expressed, some of her Latino classmates were not impressed. Melanie later described an attack where one of the students jumped on her back and put her in a chokehold.
I didn't know any of these people. We have brick walls in the middle school and he slammed my face on the bricks.
News of the attack outraged her parents.
It never should have happened in the first place. The whole assignment was a silly assignment and they should have contacted us immediately after it happened.
They handled this wrong, you know, they put a child back in danger. It was a very racially motivated crime.
– J.R. Bowers, Melanie's father
Mr. Bowers said his daughter suffered scratch marks along her neck, face, arms, as well as a swollen jaw. His daughter told him as many as 20 students surrounded her in the hallway, and subjected her to verbal insults. Students destroyed her poster. Of Melanie’s bruises, Bowers said, "She was like a zebra on her arm. She believes they were intentionally trying to hurt her."
Three of the Latino students were issued “in-school” suspensions. The Athens school district was inundated with angry emails about the attack. This incident triggered anger about our nation’s issues with teen crime, illegal immigration, and school security all in one fell swoop.
While trying to get a handle on the seriousness of the crime, the school authorities reviewed surveillance tapes, as the attack was said to have occurred in a “blind spot” not covered by the cameras. But upon further review, the unspeakable became very clear.
Melanie made the whole “attack” story up.
Surveillance tape, later edited together, showed Melanie Bowers walking through the halls, scratching her own face, neck, and arms repeatedly to create the wounds she’d later say was inflicted by Latino students.
Can you imagine what must have been going through the minds of her parents when shown the videotape? Embarrassment must be an understatement. Upon being shown the visual evidence, Melanie recanted her story.
I see my daughter was not assaulted, and put the marks on her body. No gang violence as witnessed. She filed a false report.
– Shera Bowers, Melanie's mother, in a released statement
Unlike many parents today who will side with their little darlings no matter what, J.R. Bowers apparently believes his daughter need learn a lesson from all this, agrees with the “false report” charges being filed by the Athens school district through the Henderson County District Attorney's office, and has apologized to school administrators for the actions of his daughter.
I have reviewed the recording and agree with the charges that will need to be filed.
Immigrant activist groups nationwide are outraged that innocent students could have been rousted, based on the word of a lying, attention-starved, little white girl. Many of those against illegal immigration got caught up in the sensational nature of the story, only to share the eggs on their faces for believing a story they wanted to be true.
We’ve heard the laments of advocacy groups who complain false rape charges make it harder for people to believe women who actually were raped. One would think young people today would know the story of the little boy who cried “wolf”.
I’m sure many like little Melanie believe getting caught is something that, heaven forbid, would never happen to her. As it would appear many young people today are without shame or conscience, Melanie Bowers could probably have cared less about what would have happened to those students if her lie held up. It was all about the drama. It was all about her. Now it is.
Whether others in her peer group learn anything from this incident is another thing.
This column by radio broadcaster Bob Parks originally appeared on Outside the Wire. You can read the original here.