Posted on Tue, Jul. 25, 2006

Five young women sue Casey County schools over alleged bullying


Five young women allege in a lawsuit that other girls cursed, threatened and physically attacked them at Casey County schools and that school officials ignored or made light of the bullying, telling one victim she needed to “toughen up.”

The abuse was so bad, and the response by school officials so inadequate, that the victims experienced physical injury, depression and anxiety. All five transferred to other county school systems or were placed on homebound instruction, but their emotional trauma continues, according to the lawsuit.

“I think the whole ordeal instilled a fear in us that we’ll never be able to get rid of,” one plaintiff, Lacy Griffith, 18, said in an interview today. She finished school last semester in a homebound program and was afraid to go to her graduation ceremony.

Another plaintiff, Rachel Weddle, 15, said she had good grades and liked school before another student attacked her in the gym, punching her for several minutes before another student finally ran to find the teacher. Her grades slipped after the attack and she doesn’t enjoy school as she once did, Weddle said.

“I’m scared the same things are going to happen,” she said.

Attorneys for the five, now ages 15 to 18, filed the lawsuit in Casey Circuit Court on Friday. The complaint lists Superintendent Linda Hatter; Casey County High School Principal Tim Goodlett; Jerry Pierce, who recently retired as assistant principal at the high school; and 11 other administrators, teachers or school employees as defendants.

Most of the alleged incidents, including a graphic, obscenity-filled death threat, took place at the high school, although one teen alleged the abuse started in middle school.

The lawsuit’s allegations of abuse date to late 2002. Two of the plaintiffs graduated last semester, two will attend school in other counties this fall, and the fifth will be on homebound instruction.

The five said they had not experienced similar problems in other school districts. One of their attorneys, Brenda Popplewell of Somerset, said she thinks Casey County schools have failed so often to properly address bullying that it’s become ingrained.

“I thing they’ve created a culture where bullying is accepted, through inaction,” Popplewell said. She represents the five along with Ned Pillersdorf of Prestonsburg and Ted Lavit of Lebanon.

The lawsuit alleges that the school officials were negligent, inflicted emotional distress on the five students and denied them their rights to an education. It seeks unspecified damages.

Hatter said today she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment in detail. However, she said the Casey County school system has policies against bullying and harassment and has done a good job handling any reports of problems it has received.

“We would not condone any bullying or harassment,” Hatter said.

© 2006 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.