Nye County School District’s superintendent and several top administrators and teachers at Pahrump Valley High School were sued in District Court late last month over allegations they allowed a high school freshman to be bullied by classmates.
Named in the civil complaint are Dale Norton, district superintendent, retiring PVHS Principal Max Buffi, Vice-Principal Sonja Miller, teachers Robert Hopkins and Chris Funk, as well as Nancy Thompson, a guidance counselor. The district itself was also named in the suit.
The lawsuit was brought by Jacqueline Lawson on behalf of her child. The lawsuit refers to the minor using only his initials.
According to the lawsuit, at the beginning of the spring semester this year, the alleged student victim began to be verbally harassed by two other freshmen in Hopkins’ fifth period physical education class.
“Over the course of the next few weeks the physicality of the bullying increased and the two students began to physically push D.L. on a nearly daily basis in an attempt to make him fall to the ground,” reads the complaint.
In February, the alleged victim finally spoke to a teacher, Funk, about the abuse. Funk allegedly told the student he would consult with his counselor, Thompson, about the bullying.
Several days later, the student went to Hopkins to complain. And leaving a meeting with the teacher, the student was again confronted by his alleged tormentors, one of whom pushed him.
This time the child decided to defend himself and threw a punch at the bully. Failing to land the blow, however, the victim was socked in the face himself, placed in a headlock and then punched several more times. The victim allegedly suffered a black eye and bruises to his head and face.
Both students were given a nine-day suspension for fighting, something the victim’s mother felt was unjustified since her son was ultimately the victim. The suspension was upheld following an investigation of the mother’s concerns.
“Following the beating and during the suspension, D.L. experienced nightmares and generally had trouble sleeping. D.L. also experienced thoughts of hurting himself to avoid having to go back to school, as he knew he would have to encounter the students who had bullied him,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit admonishes the school district, alleging that teachers and administrators failed to follow the district’s own guidelines.
“Specifically, the Defendants failed to follow the reporting policies within the NCSD Parent/Student Handbook and allowed D.L. to be bullied to the point where he was physically attacked,” the lawsuit reads.
Lawson and her attorneys are seeking at least $100,000 in damages as well as legal fees. Also, the lawsuit demands the school district be forced to devise a new policy to combat bullying.
Las Vegas attorney Sean Claggett, representing the mother and her child, declined to comment Thursday.
“I’m not going to make a comment. The complaint speaks for itself,” he said.
Norton said he could also not comment. He said he was familiar with the suit and that it had been turned over to the district’s attorneys.