A former high school student from Iowa has filed a personal injury lawsuit against his school district – in addition to school administrators and his football coach – alleging that they failed to protect him from bullies who caused “permanent physical, emotional, neurological and cognitive deficits.”
Court documents show that the boy, only identified as K.R.S. in the lawsuit, contends that multiple officials within the Bedford Community School District ignored the boy’s complaints about constantly being harassed by fellow students. Specifically, a USA Today article referencing the lawsuit explains that, “school officials failed to protect him from bullies who repeatedly threw footballs that struck the boy’s head.”
Plaintiff Suffers Brain Injury
The lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Desmoines and alleges that District Superintendent Joe Drake, principal Deb Bonde and football coach Robert McCoy were all responsible for the injuries to K.R.S. by ignoring his claims about the ongoing bullying.
K.R.S. claims he was repeatedly bullied – including both verbal and physical harassment – and reported the bullying to the school officials leading up to October 11, 2012. On October 11, the plaintiff was kneeling on the sidelines at an extracurricular football practice when two students, who were also players on the school football team, “standing approximately six feet from K.R.S. repeatedly struck the [helmeted] head of K.R.S. with footballs thrown at high velocity,” according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiff began feeling the effects of the head trauma over the next week or so, and after his face began drooping doctors determined that he had sustained a significant traumatic brain injury that would later require brain surgery. K.R.S. has since been rendered “permanently and totally disabled,” according to court documents, and he is unable to control the left side of his body.
According to Drake, state investigators have told him that an ongoing probe of the incident and the injuries to K.R.S. appears to indicate that the district’s students and employees did nothing wrong. “What they’re alleging and what happened are different things,” Drake added.
Growth of Bullying in Schools
Approximately six years ago, the state of Iowa passed a law that required all school districts to develop anti-bullying guidelines that would prevent “electronic, written, verbal or physical” acts towards students that could potentially have a negative impact on academia and mental health or puts the student in a fear for his or her own safety. Ambiguities in the law allow the individual school districts to determine appropriate punishment and even to develop their own interpretations of the law itself.
In the most recent Iowa Youth Survey – a statewide poll that surveys sixth, eighth and 11th grade students every two years – researchers found that 50 percent of students claimed to have experienced bullying.
Bullying has become an increasingly popular topic for discussion throughout the United States, particularly among those in the educational community because of the challenges with preventing bullying that may or may not occur on school grounds. A number of media reports on the topic have outlined the importance for improving education and awareness about bullying, primarily because of a number of student suicides that appear to be the result of bullying from classmates.