Parent wants state agencies to review bullying incident

Parent wants state agencies to review bullying incident

The attorney for a parent who is suing the Dougherty County school system wants the state to review the investigation into the bullying of his son on a Westover High basketball team trip. One of their many concerns is the possible use of alcohol on the bus.

Six Westover High school basketball players were punished for bullying a teammate during a camp in Tallahassee in July.

But the victim's father, Manswell Peterson and his attorney think more needs to be done.

"It appears that where Westover is concerned, nothing that the school system is doing, or not doing as the case may be, can be trusted," said Samia Giddings Peterson, Manswell Peterson's attorney.

In an investigative report, the Dougherty County School Police investigator says alcohol allegations were investigated and "it appears to have been substantiated for possible alcohol abuse on a small scale based on the bus video. This issue will not be pursued due to the lack of physical evidence and a lack of corroboration."

"There is no such thing as a small scale when you're talking about minors ingesting, drinking and being in possession of alcohol. It is unlawful if you are under the age of 21 if you're in this state," said Giddings Peterson.

The investigator says the video shows the players making references to alcohol and passing around a sports drink bottle.

"I think some boys were trading Gatorade or something around, once again, boorish behavior. And it's certainly possible with teenagers today that it could have happened but if you don't have any evidence, then there's really nothing to go on," said Tommy Coleman, the DCSS attorney.

Dallis Smith, the head basketball coach was also reprimanded for not providing enough chaperones on that bus.

Peterson's attorney wants state officials to review the entire case.

"We can't trust you to police yourself, so we need to have someone on the outside police you, because you don't seem to be able to get the job done," explained Giddings Peterson.

Peterson filed a lawsuit October 3rd, seeking $6 million from the School Board and $2 million from Smith.

Coleman says the school bus video is not available under an Open Records request, saying it is protected under the Family Education Privacy Rights Act.

"Students have a right to privacy in the educational environment. And even though this was a trip for an athletic event, they still are under our supervision, they still have that right to privacy. And when give out a video, then we have to, that video of a bus shows not only this student, which you could have a right to, but it shows every other student as well," said Coleman.

But the video could be subpoenaed for the lawsuit.

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