Parents in Greenville County, South Carolina are suing the largest school district in the state after they say their openly gay son was harassed, bullied, and assaulted for years and the school district did nothing to stop it, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
The parents of “John Doe” filed the personal injury lawsuit against the Greenville County School District earlier this month.
According to the lawsuit, Doe was “subjected to ongoing and severe bullying” from 2018 to 2020 at Greenville Middle Academy.
Doe’s parents reported the bullying to the school district several times and the school allegedly took no action “until the spring of 2020, by which time Doe’s mental and physical health was so fragile that he had missed several weeks of school and required medical and psychiatric care,” the lawsuit said.
Doe’s parents claim that district employees “retaliated against Doe by accusing him of bullying and discriminatory conduct, threatening to move him out of his classes and physically isolating him from other students in the classroom setting.”
The bullying began in November 2018 when a student punched Doe in the face — in front of the teacher and the entire class, according to the lawsuit.
An administrator told Doe’s parents that their son was being “racist” because he called the other student who punched him “lazy,” the lawsuit said. The other student was “an overweight African American child” and the school administrator thought Doe, who was 11 at the time, was using racial stereotypes.
One week later, Doe’s teacher told him he would be moved out of the class because of the punching incident, according to the lawsuit.
When Doe’s parents asked the teacher why they were moving him to another class, she said that Doe’s apology to the student was “inappropriate” and was meant to “humiliate” the student who punched him, the lawsuit said.
“As a result of the apology and her interpretation of Doe as a racist, which interpretation she repeated to others, Ms. Bates isolated Doe from the other students in her class beginning on the day of the incident and continued to do so for two months, requiring him to sit alone while all other students were seated together in working groups,” the lawsuit said.
Doe was isolated from other students in the class for more than a month, even after Doe’s parents called the school to complain multiple times, the lawsuit said.
In February 2019, students called Doe a “faggot” in two different classes, the lawsuit said. The parents said that those teachers took appropriate action following that incident.
However, the bullying continued. Other incidents mentioned in the lawsuit include:
- In May 2019 during a sex ed discussion, multiple students called Doe a “faggot” and other degrading names. Another student commented that he should be in the girl’s class and that he bet Doe doesn’t have a penis. The teacher did nothing to stop this, the lawsuit said.
- Days later, the incident was reported to District Ombudsman, Brian Sherman, with a request for a Title IX investigation. Sherman did not investigate the incident, according to the lawsuit.
- In October 2019, a student told Doe that “the stairway to hell was paved in rainbow bricks.” Another student told Doe he was “dirty and diseased.”
- After reporting this incident to the school, Doe’s parents learned their son was kicked in the chest as other students were bullying him. The school administrator did not contact Doe’s parents per protocol to tell them about the incident.
When Doe saw a counselor, she “blamed Doe for the bullying he was experiencing, stating that he was a ‘know-it-all,’ was ‘annoying,’ and that other children were retaliating against him by going after his ‘weaknesses,’ i.e. his sexual orientation,” the lawsuit said.
In November 2019, Doe’s parents were told that he was tackled at recess by another kid and was injured. Doe said the kid who tackled him said his face was “very punchable” and threatened to “kick his teeth in.” The teachers told Doe’s parents that the other kids were just playing around and they weren’t punished, according to the lawsuit.
After months of continued bulling and harassment, Doe’s parents met with school administrators in February 2020, officials agreed to address the situation and change policies “to contend with the ongoing bullying their son was experiencing on nearly a daily basis,” the lawsuit said.
Administrators then made a plan to help Doe, “including granting him partial homebound status that would have entitled him to compensation in the form of instructional hours for the days that he missed as a result of the health impact of the bullying,” the lawsuit said.
“However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he never received the compensatory instruction and his grades in the final quarter dropped precipitously,” the lawsuit said.
Doe’s parents are suing for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation.
“Doe has suffered various injuries and damages including mental and emotional injuries that have required medical and mental health treatment and are expected to require ongoing future treatment,” the lawsuit said. “He has endured significant pain and suffering.”
Greenville attorney Courtney Atkinson is representing Doe’s parents in the lawsuit.
The Greenville News reported the Greenville School District recorded 418 bullying incident across the district in the 2018-2019 school year. The newspaper reported that the district paid a family $10,000 in April 2018 for how it handled another middle school bullying incident.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR..
Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an investigative journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Mandy also hosts the Murdaugh Murders podcast. Want to contact Mandy? Send your tips to [email protected].
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