A Washington County woman said her son was beaten so badly by another student on the school bus in a racially motivated attack that he required surgery and metal plates to repair the damage.
Angela Cantwell filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville against the Washington County Board of Education and an unnamed student who allegedly attacked her son, also unnamed in the action, last year.
Cantwell said in the suit that her son, now 15 years old and a student at Daniel Boone High School, has been subjected to years of harassment from other students because of his dark complexion. Cantwell is white while the teen’s father is African American.
The assault on the county school bus happened May 27, 2010, and was caught on video by a camera on the bus. That videos shows two teens facing each other and the victim’s back is to the camera as the other teen starts punching him in the left side of the head.
The punching continued without retaliation until two other boys broke it up and pulled the assailant away.
According to the suit, the victim suffered an “anterior table frontal sinus fracture in the midline of the left side of his head,” which was also described as an internal fracture of the skull. The description goes on to say the teen’s injury required surgery and metal plates to repair the damage.
The suit states that the racial harassment of the teen was so severe and continuous that it deprived him of a proper education, and apparently has been happening since grammar school.
That was at Sulphur Springs Elementary School, where the boy was allegedly subjected to racial slurs on multiple occasions by other students. The complaints were reportedly not addressed when his mother complained to the principal, Deborah Mason.
The suit says the harassment got so bad that the boy had to begin seeing a therapist to help him cope with the emotional and mental stress of the attacks. That counselor later met with school officials about teaching classes on bullying.
“This office was declined by the school administration, which took no other meaningful steps to protect” the boy, the suit reads.
Other educators are also named in the complaint and accused of taking no action when they observed or heard racial slurs directed toward the teen. After one assault, the teen was transferred to alternative school while the boy who allegedly assaulted him received in-school suspension.
When he entered Daniel Boone, the teen faced more harassment, which according to his mother, was not properly addressed when she brought it to the attention of Assistant Principal Jeremy Jenkins.
The suit asks for a jury trial, and compensatory and punitive damages a jury might award.
The school district has until Aug. 1 to file a response to the lawsuit.