CARL JUNCTION, Mo. (AP) — Lawyers for a southwest Missouri school district being sued by the parents of a boy who killed himself last year have filed a request seeking all of the Facebook messages, photographs, videos and other communication saved by the student.
The filing earlier this month is part of the district’s response to a wrongful death suit filed last year by the parents of the 14-year-old who hanged himself in his bedroom on March 16, 2003.
The nine-count lawsuit — which was transferred from Jasper County to federal court — was filed by Jessica and Mika Nugent of Carl Junction in May 2013. It accuses the school district of failing to protect their son from bullying after he came out as bisexual, which led to him taking his own life.
The child’s name has been redacted from online court records.
The school district’s request includes all photographs, images, documents, videos, website pages, website links or files saved by the boy between Jan. 1, 2012, and May 15, 2013, according to court documents.
Attorneys for the parents said the school district and its attorneys can’t describe what they are hoping to find to justify such an extensive invasion of the Nugents’ privacy.
“This is a fishing expedition, plain and simple,” wrote Jonathan Soper, Daniel Thomas and Kenneth McClain, attorneys from Independence representing the boy’s family.
“Plaintiffs respectfully ask this court to sustain plaintiff’s objections, just as it would if defendants were seeking every paper document (the boy) and his family created, viewed or handled in a 15-month period.”
The lawsuit names as defendants Carl Junction superintendent Phillip Cook; district principals and assistant principals Scott Sawyer, Trevor Chase and Theresa Wilson; counselor Ben Withers; and bus driver David Roughton.
The family alleges the boy was bullied and harassed with slurs, physical threats and stealing or destroying of the boy’s personal property, starting in seventh grade and continuing into high school.
“After coming out, (he) was the subject of ridicule, harassment, torment and bullying,” the documents say. “This ridicule, harassment, torment and bullying took place both at school and on the school bus.”
Family members contend the defendants did not keep an eye out for the boy, and by March 2013, other students were telling the boy to hang himself and regularly threatening to beat him up.
After the boy was dropped off at a bus stop on March 14, 2013, another student yelled out the window for him to “… do everyone a favor and hang himself,” according to court documents. Two days later his parents found him hanged in his bedroom.
The boy’s family says he told school officials about the harassment, as did his parents, but no disciplinary action was taken and the abuse continued.
In its response, the district acknowledges that Jessica Nugent told one of the principals about possible misconduct on the bus and that information was relayed to others in the district. However, the district says its representatives are “without knowledge or information sufficient to admit or deny any other allegations” from the boy’s parents.
Cook said last week he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit but that the district does everything it can to protect its students.