The mother of a Missouri girl says in a lawsuit that the St. Joseph public school district did not help her daughter when classmates bullied her and left her suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Frances Keitz contends the bullying involved physical and verbal abuse, The Kansas City Star reported.
She alleges that students threatened to kill her daughter, Anna, or urged her to kill herself.
She says it happened during the 2015-2016 school year while Anna was a student at Skaith Elementary School.
Anna, who is now 13, was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety in January 2016 and had to be hospitalized, according to the lawsuit.
Keitz says in the lawsuit she frequently asked district administrators to help her daughter, but that they did nothing and school personnel ‘engaged in a pattern of blaming and ignoring victims of bullying.’
A Missouri woman says in a lawsuit that the St. Joseph public school district didn’t help her daughter when classmates bullied her and left her suffering from PTSD. She says it happened during the 2015-2016 school year while Anna attended Skaith Elementary School (above)
The lawsuit names four co-defendants, all of whom are school administrators. The school principal, Jennifer Patterson, is seen in the undated file photo above
Frances Keitz says in the lawsuit she frequently asked administrators to help her daughter, but that school personnel ‘engaged in a pattern of blaming and ignoring victims of bullying.’ Patterson (left) and Superintendent Robert Newhart (right) are seen above
‘Defendants did not employ effective remedial measures against the harassing behavior and the bullying continued for several months,’ the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit names as defendants four district administrators – Jennifer Patterson, principal at Skaith Elementary; Superintendent Robert Newhart; Solon Haynes, director of student services for the district; and Marlena Walley, the district’s coordinator of federal programs.
Newhart said in a statement that the concerns raised in the lawsuit were addressed and the district can’t discuss specific disciplinary action against any student.
He also said the district can’t respond to specifics in pending litigation but ‘if we could provide additional information, you would know that this lawsuit does not provide a full or accurate account of what has transpired between Frances Keitz and the district.’
Before filing the lawsuit last month in Buchanan County Circuit Court, Keitz was banned from the school grounds after she began attending school with Anna.
She alleges in her lawsuit that the district has made it difficult to remove her daughter so she can be taught at home.
The district says an administrative hearing officer retained as part of a separate federal lawsuit the district filed over education plans for Keitz’s daughter reviewed Keitz’s complaint on that issue and found in the district’s favor.
‘The district has already prevailed once on claims brought by Mrs. Keitz, which is a reminder that there are two sides to every story, and that the allegations of a lawsuit are not proof that anything improper actually occurred,’ Newhart said.
Last year, Keitz told KCTV that her daughter was targeted for bullying by boys in her class after she had told the teacher that they had brought in a BB gun to school.
‘She was fairly happy, and then the BB gun incident happened,’ Anna’s mother, Frances Keitz, said.
Keitz said her daughter was targeted by boys for telling teachers about that gun.
She said Anna was kicked in the head on the playground.
Things deteriorated to the point where other classmates began to turn on Anna.
‘If I asked to sit down, they would tell me that I couldn’t sit there or they would literally push me out of the group and have all their friends together and block spots …go to the extra table by myself,’ Anna said.
She said that kids would often mock her clothing and her hair.
‘They wrapped my hair around my neck and said I can choke myself with it,’ Anna said.
Anna’s mother eventually filed two police reports. She also began to accompany her daughter to school. Every day, she would join Anna for lunch at the cafeteria.
Keitz also kept an eye on her daughter in the school library, where she says some of the abuse took place.
Instead of the school disciplining the students who were allegedly bullying her daughter, Keitz says that she received a letter instructing her to stay away.
‘Your conduct at Skaith is interfering with the learning environment there and has become an undue distraction to the staff and students at the school,’ the school district said in a letter to Keitz.
Newhart has denied Keitz’s allegations, saying that the district takes appropriate action against bullying.
‘We take appropriate action whether that’s disciplining the instigator behind that or whatever actions to happen to stop it,’ Newhart said.
Keitz says the effects of the bullying on her daughter have been devastating.
‘I don’t know how to put it, she’s just not my kid. She’s totally withdrawn,’ Keitz said.
She said Anna has been aided somewhat by therapy and medication.
Now the concerned mother wants the school to let her have unfettered access to school property and to allow her daughter to be permanently home-schooled.
When asked what she would say to her classmates, Anna responded: ‘You ruined my life. You have hurt me in so many ways I cannot count. You don’t have the right to do this to anyone at all.’