Judge Dismisses Most Claims In Discrimination Suit Against Greenwood School
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The parents of an 11th-grader at Greenwood High School are asking for a preliminary injunction to prevent alleged harassment of their son while a discrimination lawsuit against the school district moves forward.
The injunction was filed May 10 after U.S. District Court Judge P.K. Holmes III dismissed most claims against the district and all claims against individual and members of the Greenwood Board of Education on May 2.
The parents of Logan Bollman filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fort Smith on Jan. 2. The suit alleges administrators and board members tolerated discrimination against their son — who is of Native American and Hispanic descent — since he was enrolled in the district in fifth grade, either through failing to investigate claims of discrimination or failing to take action to prevent discrimination.
In an affidavit from Bollman, he said he’s been subjected to racial epithets, threats of violence and actual violence from other students since fifth grade. Teachers and principals have retaliated against Bollman for reporting incidents of “racism, discrimination, harassment and bullying,” according to the affidavit.
In its answer to the lawsuit, the district denies the allegations, and in its motion opposing a preliminary injunction claims Bollman and his parents, Scott and Janelle, have made “continuous and repetitive false allegations against students and staff that require extended administrative time to investigate” and has been a disruption to the operations of the school district.
Although the complaint describes discrimination and harassment since 2007, the district countered those allegations weren’t reported to school officials until 2010, according to the motion.
The district interviewed each student Bollman and his parents identified and was unable to verify the complaint, but counseled the identified students on racism and the consequences of discrimination and harassment, according to the motion.
Affidavits filed by several teachers, coaches and administrators address specific incidents cited in the lawsuit, saying the complaints were investigated and determined to be unfounded and some incidents were mischaracterized.
The district also claims, in court filings, that Logan Bollman and his parents hampered efforts to investigate by not reporting alleged incidents in a timely manner.
However, in one incident, an affidavit notes a student was disciplined for making a threatening statement to Bollman in a school restroom.
Both sides agree the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, investigated the complaints and determined there was insufficient evidence to conclude the district violated Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal aid.
The Bollmans’ lawsuit alleges the district, board members, John Ciesla, superintendent of Greenwood Schools, Kaye Headley, Ciesla’s predecessor, Jerry Cecil, associate superintendent/equity coordinator/athletic director, and Jerry Efurd, high school principal, violated Logan Bollman’s rights under Title VI, Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act.
Holmes dismissed all claims against individuals named in the complaint and claims under Section 1983 and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act against the district.
Among the claims under Section 1983 was an allegation the district retaliated against Logan Bollman for filing a complaint with the OCR, by remaining indifferent to the harassment of Logan Bollman.
Holmes dismissed the claim, noting retaliation couldn’t be shown, based on the plaintiffs own assertion the district’s alleged indifference to Logan Bollman’s harassment remained unchanged following the OCR complaint.
The plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that Logan Bollman is entitled to be treated in a manner in the line with the U.S. Constitution and laws of the United States; substantial compensatory damages; an injunction preventing defendants from continuing their unequal treatment of Logan Bollman; and punitive damages.