As a Dallas Personal Injury Wrongful Death Attorney I am outraged and saddened at this tragic Cleburne school bullying death case.
Now I known and have witnessed first hand bullying in school and in colleges. And as we can see bullying exerts a tremendous toll on the psychological and physical well being of our youth. For too long the teachers and the school personnel with whom we entrust our kids, have a “I don’t care attitude.” They have to do a better job.
In Texas most teachers and principals have a “don’t give a damn attitude” because of sovereign immunity under the Texas Tort Claim Act.
Hopefully this attitude will be majorly adjusted once the school districts have to shell out large significant money damages and which hits them in their pocket book. Charging individuals, such as teachers, principals and district superintendents would be significant to school bullying cases because it might change behavior. This is unfortunately the only language negligent people understand. My condolences and prayers are with the Carmichael family, and I hope they are successful in their case.
A federal lawsuit filed in Dallas alleges the Joshua school district and several school officials of violating the civil rights of 13-year-old Jon Carmichael by ignoring repeated acts of bullying against him.
The suit was filed by Carmichael’s parents and seeks damages and compensation for his estate and heirs.
The lawsuit alleges school employees failed to intervene when he was bullied in physical education class and when he was thrown into a dumpster. In another incident, students saw that his head was placed upside down in a toilet and “flushed several times.”
“Just prior to his death, he was stripped nude, tied up and again placed into a trashcan,” according to the lawsuit. “The event was videotaped, put on YouTube but was later taken down.”
According to Martin Cirkiel of Round Rock, Carmichael’s attorney, the school personnel knew about many of the bullying incidents, then ignored or covered up other ones they didn’t see firsthand.
The lawsuit also accuses school staff members of telling a student who had a video of the assault to destroy it and says Carmichael’s personal journal has been “knowingly destroyed, withheld or purposefully hidden by staff, as well.”
Carmichael hanged himself in a barn near his family home in Cleburne. He was the second Johnson County teenager to kill himself in six months. In both cases, families attributed the deaths partially to bullying. In October 2009, Hunter Layland, a 15-year-old freshman at Cleburne High School, shot himself.
Joshua school policy requires principals or appointees to investigate reports of bullying within 10 days. But the lawsuit says those policies weren’t followed as “school district personnel clearly had an actual practice and custom of looking the other way.”
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