Latest: Sides react to judge's decision in St. Joseph school bullying lawsuit

District and lawyer of mother and daughter react after Circuit Judge rules in favor of the St. Joseph School District in a lawsuit about school bullying.

Posted: Aug 22, 2019 4:15 PM
Updated: Aug 23, 2019 5:15 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) — A mother of a St. Joseph elementary student sued the school district, saying her daughter was bullied by other students at her school.

Circuit Judge Daniel Kellogg ruled in favor of the St. Joseph School District on all counts Aug. 19. 

The mother, K.F., claimed the district allowed students at Skaith Elementary School to torment her daughter, K.S. The court withholds the full names of the victim and her mom to protect their identities.

K.F claims she told school officials who did not intervene.

The district issued a statement Friday afternoon and it read in part, "The District strongly denied the allegations made by the parent and former student in this lawsuit. While we work hard to avoid disputes like this one with the families we serve, we are pleased the court agreed this parent's claims could not proceed."

Rebecca Randles, attorney for the mother and daughter, said her clients were disappointed.

"They are extraordinarily upset, angry and sad, at the same time," Randles said in a phone interview. "This little girl hasn't been able to be in class for over two years because of what happened to her."

The abuse occurred during the 2015-2016 school year, according to court documents filed in September 2017, in Buchanan County Circuit Court. In the suit, Randles alleged the girl suffers depression and anxiety as a result of the bullying. The following school year the victim did not return to Skaith, or any other St. Joseph School District school, according to the suit.

Randles alleged administrators failed to adequately address the months of bullying K.S. experienced. K.F. contacted district administrators on multiple occasions asking them to protect her daughter but they did nothing, the lawsuit says.

The district, represented by Kansas City-area based lawyers Stephanie Lovett-Bowman and Madison Perry, denied the allegations contained in the lawsuit and then filed a motion requesting Judge Kellogg to rule in its favor.

The suit named four district administrators, including former superintendent Robert Newhart. Jennifer Patterson, principal at Skaith Elementary, Solon Haynes, former director of student services for the district, and Marlena Walley, the former coordinator of federal programs for the district are the other three named.

Randles on behalf of K.F. voluntarily dismissed Walley from the suit but Judge Kellogg included the coordinator in the final judgment.

According to Randles, her clients will appeal the decision in the next 30 days. 

Below is the SJSD full statement:

"The St. Joseph School District is committed to providing a safe environment for all students and protecting their rights. When a complaint is brought forth regarding bullying or harassment, the district complies with Missouri laws to respond. We assure our patrons that vigilance is important to the District, especially when it comes to responding to reports of bullying.

The District strongly denied the allegations made by the parent and former student in this lawsuit. While we work hard to avoid disputes like this one with the families we serve, we are pleased the court agreed this parent’s claims could not proceed."

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