School: Girl lied about assault over immigration poster

Dallas_An eighth-grader lied when she claimed a mob of angry students assaulted her for making a poster that said, "If you love our nation, stop illegal immigration," Athens school district officials said Wednesday.

Surveillance cameras at Athens Middle School show Melanie Bowers, 13, making scratch marks on her face and arms in a hallway after a classmate took her poster in a "snatch and grab," Superintendent Fred Hayes said.

Melanie had told administrators she was clawed and hit after about 20 students, angry about the poster she made for a class project, swarmed her and wrested the sign away.

The reported scuffle led to the suspension of three Hispanic students.

"The real error in this whole thing lies in the young lady telling lies," Hayes said. The school is pursuing misdemeanor charges against the girl for making a false report.

The three students returned to class Wednesday. Hayes said the punishment was still appropriate because they were involved in taking the poster, but he said he apologized to the parents of the suspended students.

"Those students were cast in a negative light," he said.

Melanie's parents apologized for their daughter in a statement provided by school officials. They did not immediately return requests for comment.

"I see that my daughter was not assaulted and put the marks on her body," wrote Shera Bowers, the girl's mother.

Hayes said the district would consider placing Melanie in an alternative school.

J.R. Bowers, the girl's father, said he was holding his daughter out of class for the rest of the week.

News of the case touched off a flurry of comments on the Internet. Hayes said the district received messages from people well outside Athens, a city of 12,000 about 70 miles southeast of Dallas.

"Some of these people are irrational in some of the e-mails that they've been sending me about these young people," he said.

Copyright 2008 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.