Springville school district undergoes bullying lawsuit

(Rigo Moran)

Parents sue Springville Unified School District for alleged negligence after multiple incidents of bullying occur against their child on elementary school campus; school district counter sues bullies for damages

SPRINGVILLE – After their child was injured by school bullies, parents took to the law to hold the school district responsible for not protecting their son. The school district responded by filing a countersuit that said the bullies should cover damages.

Parents Jennifer and Corey Troutt filed two cases against Springville Unified School District for negligence after their child, under the alias JBT, was allegedly bullied multiple times at his school.

According to the lawsuits, JBT sustained injuries during two separate instances at Springville Union Elementary School due to bullying. In response to the cases, the school district then filed cross complaints on the grounds that the bullies, under the aliases MS and LL, and their guardians should be held responsible for the incidents.

According to the suit, MS was one of the students who “routinely heckled, teased, harassed, physically confronted,” JBT at school. The lawsuit claims in October of 2022, all of the defendants knew about JBT’s mistreatment and  “continued to allow it to happen without consequence to the other students, including MS.”

The suit describes an altercation, which describes JBT being brutally attacked during an unsupervised soccer game, where he was put in a headlock and punched several times. The suit also states that JBT had been bullied multiple times at school before and that the school should have been aware of his vulnerability.

One of the previous instances where JBT was reported to be bullied is being pursued in a separate case against the school district, where LL bumped into another fellow classmate at school in November of 2021.

According to the cross complaint against the lawsuit, it is alleged that “that (LL) and another classmate bumped into one another. (LL) then expressed anger toward the other classmate, when JBT told (LL) to ‘stop’ what he was doing.” Then it was further alleged that “JBT pushed (LL) and (LL) responded by tackling him to the cement. (LL) then began hitting JBT’s head upon the ground.”

According to Matthew Bunting, who is the legal representation for Springville Unified School District, the names of MS and LL were mistakenly swapped in the first filing of the cross complaint, which he confirmed has since been amended to indicate that LL is correctly identified as the assailant mentioned in the document.

The plaintiff’s complaint – the suit filed by JBT’s parents – states that “Defendants were all aware of the prior incident and the ongoing treatment of JBT and continued to allow it to happen without consequence to the other students, including MS.” The lawsuit names multiple co-defendants including the principal of Springville Elementary School, Connie Owens, as well as sixth-grade teachers, Priscilla Benas and Jackie Borges along with others. The lawsuit claims that these employees of the school district were responsible for monitoring the children involved in the altercations.

The suit also states that the defendant failed to “uphold numerous mandatory duties imposed on them by state and federal law” such as protecting them from known or foreseeable dangers, providing proper supervision and not imposing adequate consequences after the incidents. The MS case also points to the previous altercation with LL as evidence that the school district had “notice of the unfitness of its staff” that would have provided them reason to believe more supervision was necessary.

The plaintiff claims the school district should cover damages for the serious injury and psychological damage JBT sustained, as well as the time his parent Corey Troutt had to take off work to stay home with JBT while they recovered.

However, according to the cross complaint, the children involved are responsible for damages the school district might incur.

“The whole reason to file a cross complaint is, it’s a prophylactic measure,” Bunting said. “Sometimes insurance companies will come in, and they’ll contribute some portion of the settlement. That’s rare. … In Tulare County, on average only 2% of (civil) cases go to trial, … the reality is the vast majority settle.”

Bunting continued to explain that the cross complaint must state that the children involved in the dispute are responsible for damages for the insurance companies to cover the damages.

According to Bunting, in the event the case is not settled outside of court, some homeowner’s insurance plans will cover damages. In other cases, the family could end up paying out of pocket in the event that they are held liable.

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