Lawsuit filed against Charleston County School District alleging teacher bullied student

A lawsuit against the Charleston County School District alleges that a high school teacher bullied a male student by repeatedly telling the class that the student was gay.

The student later attempted suicide, the suit states.

The legal action was filed in Charleston County Circuit Court on Aug. 30, court records show. The unidentified student, referred to in documents as John Doe, was a student at West Ashley High School, according to the complaint.

The student's mother filed the suit on her son's behalf, said plaintiff's attorney Philip Hammond. He would not say why the suit wasn't filed against the teacher. Due to the sensitive nature of the suit, Hammond said he could not comment further.

The teacher is alleged to have bullied the student starting in early April. The student's mother alleges that the teacher repeatedly belittled her son in front of his peers, calling him “gay,” “gay boy,” and other names. The teacher repeatedly told the student's classmates that the student was in a homosexual relationship with another classmate, the suit states.

The mother alleges that the teacher encouraged and asked other students to pick on her son during class. She alleges that her son was made to feel that he could not report the bullying to school administration. The student was also made to feel he could not appeal to any of his classmates because of the resulting alienation and isolation that the situation created, the complaint states.

If the allegations are true, they are really disturbing, said Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance.

AFFA is a social justice organization dedicated to achieving equality and acceptance for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

“We just all presume that a teacher would never do such a thing. No one should be belittled that way,” Redman-Gress said.

He hopes the school district will act quickly to get to the bottom of the situation.

Experts have linked school bullying to an increased risk for mental health problems, substance abuse and suicide. Students who are victims of bullying are also at risk for poor academic achievement on standardized tests. They are more likely to feel isolated, to participate less in school activities and to miss, skip or drop out of school, according to stopbullying.gov, a website that provides information on the issue from various government agencies.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) youth and those perceived as LGBT are at an increased risk of being bullied, the website says.

On the West Ashley High School web site, the teacher identified in the suit is listed as a member of the math faculty.

The suit against the school district says that the emotional stress created by the teacher's conduct caused the student to become physically ill. The student attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself as a result of the bullying, according to the complaint.

The student has allegedly suffered severe emotional and psychological damages and has been forced to withdraw from school. He is being home-schooled. He is also receiving mental health counseling, according to the suit.

Jason Sakran, a spokesman for the school district, said he could not comment on pending litigation.

The suit alleges that the school district failed to properly hire, train and/or supervise the teacher.

According to the complaint, the school district's negligence entitles the defendant to an award of past, present and future damages sufficient to properly compensate him for the pain and suffering, the mental anguish, the permanency of his injury, the loss of enjoyment of life, the alienation of his lifestyle and his past and future medical bills.

The suit seeks a trial by jury.

Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.

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