Lawyers on both sides are busy doing their homework, a 14-year-old student allegedly injured in a confrontation with his teacher is hospitalized recovering from four operations on his leg and the Muscogee County School District faces the prospect of a $5 million lawsuit.
And it began in a classroom on Forest Road.
Details of the incident were publicized on this site Thursday and comments from readers here and on Facebook have referred to greedy lawyers, an unruly student, an overzealous teacher who shouldn’t have been physical no matter what the circumstances, a school that should have called the boy’s parents instead of putting the injured student on a school bus and growing sympathy for a teenager who faces several more weeks in an Atlanta hospital.
The threat of a lawsuit put lawyers on the clock.
School district attorneys are gathering information requested by attorney Renee Y. Tucker, who represents the student and his mother. She is associated with Forrest B. Johnson & Associates, a law firm with offices in Columbus, Atlanta and Macon. She served various members of the school system with an Ante Litem Notice — commonly known as a demand letter — on Sept. 29.
Tucker has also filed a Freedom of Information request. The school district was asked to produce various documents and copy of video footage taken in the classroom where the incident occurred. A newspaper report on Friday indicated that she has also requested the academic background of the teacher along with personnel records of the teacher and assistant principal. She also seeks local policies regarding restraining students, transporting students on school buses and procedures about rendering aid to students.
Reports of a $5 million law suit are being circulated, but no papers have been filed
The chain of events began Sept. 12 in a classroom at the Edgewood Student Services Center. It involves a student who formerly attended East Columbus Middle School. He was referred to the AIM Program under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which offers troubled students “specialized instruction and related services.”
School sources say the conflict began when the student got out of control and began wildly swinging a dust pan through the air. A male teacher restrained him and pulled the teen to the floor. He escaped and said he wanted to call his mother to come and get him. He was restrained two more times and during the third attempt to restrain him he screamed that his leg was injured.
Instead of calling his mother, school administrators or 911, the student was put on a chair in the room before being loaded in a school bus that took him home. His mother took him to the Columbus Midtown Medical Center where he was referred to Egleston Children’s Hospital. He was airlifted to Atlanta that evening.
Since then his right leg has been operated on four times and Tucker says he suffered permanent nerve damage as well as damage to his knee cap. The lawyer says the boy’s mother has told her that he will remain hospitalized four to six more weeks. Only then will he begin a lengthy program of physical therapy.
A final decision on what type of legal action will be taken will not be made until both sides have completed their individual investigations. But these issues will likely be considered:
• Why was physical restraints required?
• Did the teacher follow guidelines for dealing with an unruly student?
• Why wasn’t the student given medical attention at the scene?
• Why didn’t school officials contact the student’s mother?
• Why did authorities send the student home in a school bus?
• Did the delay in treatment worsen the condition of the student’s injuries?
• What is the long term prognosis for the student’s recovery?
• Who is liable for the student’s mounting doctor and hospital bills?
Muscogee County School District officials have declined comment on the incident saying they do not discuss active or potential lawsuits. The system is represented by longtime school board attorney Greg Ellington and his associates at Hall Booth Smith, Attorneys at Law, a law firm with offices in 12 cities, including Columbus.
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