School district sued over alleged physical bullying

UNION COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – An Upstate family suing a local school district saying it did not protect their child from bullying. This happened in Union County at Lockhart Elementary and Middle Schools.

“He would use racial slurs, called her fat,” said Reece Rowling. She said third grade name-calling became physical bullying for her little sister, all by the same boy.

During 6th grade at Lockhart Elementary and Middle in May 2015, Rowland says things escalated.

“In the next classroom while she was unpacking he said ‘I’m going to hit you’ and she said ‘do it, you’re not going to do it.’ Then he took her and drug her to the back of the room and beat her up,” said Rowland. She says the assault sent her 12 year old sister to the hospital. “When I got there [hospital] she was convulsing – they put us both out of the room to get her to come back. She was having seizures.”

She says school leaders should have taken action when relatives reported the bullying three years before the alleged attack.

“We went up there [to the school], my dad went up there. Third grade is when the sitter went up there,” she recalled.

The family filed a lawsuit against Union County Schools saying the district neglected its duty to provide a safe school environment. Rowland said the district also neglected to call EMS after the student was hurt.

Click to read lawsuit 

The district says it cannot comment on the case but talked with 7 News about its bullying policy.

“Bullying is an important issue for us as it is every school district,” said District Student Services Director Betsy Trakas. She said parents shouldn’t hesitate to report bullying so the school can investigate. “There’s a pattern of behavior over time – that there’s some imbalance of power associated with the actions and that the actions are intentional and hurtful.”

In court records filed this week, the district denies the lawsuit’s allegations of negligence. Documents say the alleged victim provoked and slapped the accused bully, and failed to report those prior threats.

Click to read school district ‘answer’ to lawsuit allegations

Rowland said they hope this is a lesson for the community that bullying can happen anywhere, and schools should always take it seriously.

“I hope they put a stop to it far before it gets to this point to where a child is physically hurt,” she said.

Rowland says her sister has been moved to another school and is much happier there. They want the district to pay for the student’s medical expenses and they also say they want to use this as a way to bring awareness to the issue of bullying.

Union county school leaders say they are working to revamp the district’s website with the definition of bullying and a way for people to make reports online, though they can currently do so in person.

 

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