On March 17, 2010, 15-year-old Wayne Treacy brutally attacked classmate Josie Ratley, also age 15, after a text message exchange in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Both were middle school students. In the text message, Ratley made a comment about Treacy’s brother, who had committed suicide in October 2009. Treacy assaulted Ratley at a school bus stop, punching her in the head and, when she fell down, slamming her head into the pavement. He also kicked Ratley with his steel-toed boots. Only the arrival of a teacher, Walter Welsh, to pull him off made Treacy stop.
Ratley was in a medically induced coma at Broward General Medical Center for weeks. She has since regained consciousness but has suffered brain damage and still cannot speak. She had endured three surgeries, including one in which surgeons replaced a section of her skull they had removed to relieve pressure when her brain swelled after the attack.
Treacy’s parents have said that their son “snapped,” and definitely needed mental health counseling. Treacy has been waived to adult court, where he will be tried on attempted murder charges; he faces the prospect of life in prison. Treacy has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Kayla Manson, age 13, has been charged as an accomplice in the crime, albeit in juvenile court. Manson allegedly told Treacy where to find Ratley.
School officials were quick to denounce the attack. Broward County Schools Superintendent Jim Notter introduced a new district anti-bullying theme that is intended to empower students so that they can make a difference. He urged students and parents to report anything suspicious via the tip line, an email, or a text message and emphasized that all reports are anonymous so students should not fear reprisal.
Unfortunately, this incident was not the first high-profile attack involving Deerfield Beach Middle School. On October 12, 2009, a group of boys attacked 15-year-old Michael Brewer, dousing him with rubbing alcohol and then setting him on fire. Brewer suffered second- and third-degree burns but had recovered enough to enroll in a different school by May 2010. He spoke out publicly to encourage Ratley in her recovery. Brewer also spoke about the dangerous climate at Deerfield Beach Middle School, although administrators claim they have many protections in place.
The community has rallied to support Ratley, and before her, Brewer. Numerous groups organized fundraisers to assist the youths in their recovery. Ratley’s mother, in particular, has become a vocal advocate of anti-bullying measures.
- McLaughlin, J., & Cilli, L. (2010, April 20). Teen pleads not guilty in Josie Ratley beating. CBS.
- Miller, C. (2010, March 23). Hero teacher Walter Welsh: “Sorry I didn’t get there faster …” but he rescued Josie Ratley from steel-toed booting. CBS News.
- Miller, C. (2010, April 8). Josie Lou Ratley, Michael Brewer attacks spur Broward County anti-bullying campaign. CBS.
- Olmeda, R. (2010, April 17). Wayne Treacy, 15, charged as adult in Deerfield beating of Josie Lou Ratley. Miami Herald.