Omaha, AR. — An Arkansas family is suing the Omaha School District, in Boone County, accusing staff of not properly addressing bullying.
The student was 11 at the time, and the family says he hasn’t been to school for more than a year because the bullying got so bad. But the defense attorney for the district says the claims are sensationalized.
“He’s always happy-go-lucky. He’s very loving. He wants everyone to like him, to love him,” said Tonya Richardson, the child’s mother. “He’s very talkative, very inquisitive, asks a lot of questions.”
She says L, as the child is identified in the lawsuit, also always liked going to school. But that changed when he started 6th grade in the fall of 2016.
“He was making up excuses to stay home with us or making up excuses to have us come and get him early,” Richardson said. “We were getting calls that he was having a bad day.
L is a high-functioning autistic child with ADHD. Richardson says his facial tics started increasing and the family started noticing changes.
“He’s not the same,” she said.
Oct. 6, 2016, was the last day L stepped foot on the school’s campus.
“He looked like he was having a seizure. His arms would flare out and you could hear his elbows locking into place, and sweating profusely,” Richardson said.
Richardson says no one at the school has told her what exactly happened that day, but says the bullying had been getting worse in the weeks prior.
A lawsuit was filed against the Omaha School District, Superintendent Jacob Sherwood, Principal Amanda Green and science teacher Dawn Dillon.
In it, the family claims Dillon punished L by having him sit on a beanbag in the middle of the classroom and called him a tattle-tale after he reported being called “dumb, stupid and retard” by other students.
“When a child gets punished for telling a teacher that someone is making fun of him, who does he turn to?” said Richardson.
The lawsuit states principal Green and superintendent Sherwood didn’t do enough or didn’t act properly to address bullying against the child.
“It’s just outright denied,” said Marshall Ney, attorney for the school district.
Ney says the district will vigorously defend itself against those allegations.
“It defies logic to believe that people who invest their entire professional life in the care and education of children would act in the way that is described in this complaint,” he said.
He hopes to prove there was no wrongdoing. And Richardson hopes the lawsuit will prevent other children from being bullied whether they’re disabled or not.
The family is seeking $56,000 for attorney fees plus damages for discrimination, violation of constitutional and statutory rights, negligence and wrongful acts committed. That amount is yet to be determined by the court.
Ney says it could take from 12 to 18 months for the court to decide is this lawsuit will be dismissed or go to trial.