DCSS wants bullying suit tossed - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

DCSS wants bullying suit tossed

Manswell Peterson Manswell Peterson
Attorney Flin Coleman Attorney Flin Coleman
Coach Dallis Smith Coach Dallis Smith

Manswell Peterson says his son was bullied on a team basketball trip last summer, while lawyers for the school system are asking a judge for a summary judgement before the case even goes to trial.

The Dougherty Co. School System claims sovereign immunity and official immunity protect the defendants and make this lawsuit a moot point.

"This is not the first time something like this has happened, and it is about time for somebody to stand up. It's time for somebody to show courage and say 'hey, enough is enough,'" said Peterson.

Peterson sued the school board, Westover head coach Dallis Smith, his 2 assistant coaches and a volunteer chaperone, asking for $8 million in damages.

In the motion, lawyers for the school say the suit should not go to trial because quote "Claims against the Dougherty county board of education cannot stand as it is well settled under Georgia law that school boards are not legal entities subject to suit,"  said Flin Coleman, an attorney for the Dougherty County School System.

It also states that the teen was bullied "Yet he is not a plaintiff in this case and the suit has not been brought on his behalf."

"What's in the record so far, meaning the pleading and in this case, the affidavits, that we acquired from various individuals, primarily the defendants themselves, show that there's no case," said  Coleman.

But Peterson says the claim for immunity should have been made last year.. and he'll continue this fight not only for his child, but for others affected by bullying.

"And if I got to go all the way to the Georgia state Capitol, I will, and I will not, not, let this fight go down," said Peterson.
Coleman says immunity is imperative for public officials and divisions of the government to be able to do their jobs without the fear of getting sued.

To win the suit, Peterson has to show actual malice, meaning the defendants knowingly allowed the bullying to happen and meant for it to cause harm.

The case started with a June 2014 Westover basketball team trip to Tallahassee.    Police investigated but did not file criminal charges.  The school did suspend six players and the head coach for at least three games.

In October Peterson filed his multi-million dollar lawsuit.    In April the school system changed its chaperone policy. Peterson claims because of problems on this trip.    The school system says that's not true.
There is no timetable for a ruling on the summary judgement motion.

According to nobullying.com, 160,000 teens skip school each day because of bullying.   75% of school shootings have been linked to bullying and harassment.   Studies show physical bullying mainly takes place in elementary and middle school, yet verbal abuse is consistent all the way to high school.   

One out of four teachers don't see anything wrong with bullying and only intervene about four-percent of the time.

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