DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A teenager is suing his southwest Iowa school district, several administrators and his former high school football coach, claiming they didn’t do enough to protect him from bullying that culminated in an attack during a fall practice that left him with severe brain injuries and permanent disabilities.
The boy and his grandmother, who is his guardian, contend in their lawsuit filed Friday in Des Moines federal court that he repeatedly told officials at his Bedford high school that he was being bullied by other students, but that they ignored him.
They “would tell him that they would look into the allegation or directed (him) to tell another teacher or coach or that they didn’t want to be bothered and walk away,” the lawsuit alleges. The Associated Press is not naming the boy, who was 16 when the alleged attack occurred, or his grandmother to protect the boy’s identity because he is a minor.
According to the lawsuit, two students repeatedly pelted the boy with footballs from about six feet away during a practice last October, hitting him in the back of his head while he was on the sidelines waiting to get onto the field. He asked them to stop several times, but they didn’t, and he later told the coach, Robert McCoy, who was on the field conducting practice during the alleged incident. McCoy said he’d look into the matter, but that he was sure the other boys weren’t trying to hurt him, the lawsuit alleges.
Eight days later, the boy developed medical problems.
The Des Moines Register reported in November that he developed headaches, speech problems and gradual paralysis on his left side. He was transferred by a local hospital to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., where doctors performed surgery to remove a blood clot near his brain stem. He remained in a coma for days and was eventually transferred to a rehabilitation center in Lincoln, Neb.
According to the lawsuit, the alleged attack left the boy with permanent physical, emotional, neurological and cognitive problems that have rendered him “permanently and totally disabled.” It seeks a jury trial and compensation for past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of full mind and body and loss of earning capacity.
His lawyer, Des Moines-based Thomas Slater, said the boy has returned home, but that his life has been permanently transformed.
“He is, we believe, clearly going to suffer the long-term effects of what is a serious traumatic brain injury from this,” Slater said.
In addition to the Bedford Community School District, those named as defendants include Superintendent Joe Drake; Bedford High School Principal Dana Nally; the district’s dean of students and special services coordinator, Deb Bonde; and McCoy.
Drake said in a statement Monday that district’s policy is to provide all students with a safe and civil school environment “in which all members of the school community are treated with dignity and respect.”
“Any known incidents or complaints of bullying, harassment or other issues concerning student welfare and safety are promptly investigated in accordance with district policies and procedures,” he said.
He said the district hasn’t seen the court documents yet and couldn’t respond to particular allegations, but would respond accordingly once it had reviewed them.
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