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Regional & National

East Tennessee mother sues schools for $5M over bullying

November 17th, 2011 4:04 pm by Staff Report

KINGSTON (AP) — A mother is suing the Roane County Schools for $5 million, claiming her biracial son was subjected to "severe, pervasive and prolonged bullying" from white classmates.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville last week by Melissa Hunka says her son was spit on, beat up and robbed from the time he entered kindergarten in 2005 until Dec. 2010 when she relocated so that he could be in a different school district, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/w0HxMe ). The suit claims the bullying was primarily carried out by three white students.

Individual defendants include Kevin Ayers, who was principal of the now-closed Walnut Elementary School, and Roane County Schools Director Toni McGriff.

The suit claims that Hunka reported the bullying to teachers and Principal Ayers "without anything being done."

Ayers also refused a request to place the child in a separate class from two of the bullies when they all started first grade, according to the suit.

And it claims that on one occasion Ayers contacted Hunka to say that a school video confirmed her son had been attacked. He asked her to come to the school to watch the video, but then changed his mind and refused to let her see it, according to the complaint.

Schools Director McGriff was aware of the bullying but was "deliberately indifferent," the complaint states.

Walnut Elementary closed at the end of the last school year as part of a school renovation and building program. Ayers is now assistant principal at Bowers Elementary in Harriman.

A message for McGriff was not returned. Someone answering the phone at Bowers Elementary said Ayers had no comment and hung up the phone.

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Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com

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