Teen Says Girls Lit Her Hair on Fire

Tatyana Butler, her mother not happy with school officials' handling of Tuesday incident

A suburban family was expressing outrage Thursday over how middle school officials were handling a bullying incident that had a seventh grader's hair set aflame by her classmates.

Tatyana Butler said the bullying began almost immediately when she started Waukegan's Thomas Jefferson Middle School this year. But the shy, standout student and her mother say the taunting and teasing went too far earlier this week.

It was Tuesday when two eighth grade girls were flicking a lighter behind the 14-year-old as she walked into class.

"I tried to walk faster but then my head got on fire," the teen recalled. "My friends was like, 'Tatyana, you hair's on fire! Your hair's on fire! and I was like, 'Are you for real?' and they just started taking it out."

Three inch clumps of burned hair began falling out by the handful. Butler asked to go home.

"They was like, 'You have to wait. Just write down what happened. I waited ... and that's when [a school official] called my mom," she said.

In turn, Neysha O'Conner asked school officials to file a report with police. They declined, and O'Conner herself went to police earlier Thursday. She said officers told her that school officials should have contacted them immediately after the incident happened on Tuesday.

"They waited two hours to call me. They didn't make the report until after told them that I was going to go to the school board and get a lawyer," O'Connor said. "Then they decide to make a report. I don't think they handled it well."

O'Conner said the two eight graders were each given what she said are inadequate penalties of three-day suspensions. School officials wouldn't confirm the punishment, but a spokesperson said the situation was "dealt with according to district policy" and provided a copy of the parent/student handbook.

Contact Us