A wrongful death lawsuit filed by a parent against the Blue Springs School District describes a middle school and high school as having allowed a child to be bullied so severely he took his own life.
The lawsuit filed last week claims that a culture of bullying that went unchecked by school officials, even after complaints were made, contributed to the death of one student and the subsequent death of that student’s best friend.
The lawsuit says students “received repeated bullying, harassment, and discrimination,” at one of the middle schools and a high school, “creating a culture where bullying was a right.” It also accuses the school district of violating anti-bullying rules and laws by downplaying bullying complaints as kids being kids and teasing.
Both teenage boys took their own lives.
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School district offices were closed on Monday, and school officials were not available for comment. An attorney for the district, Steve Coronado, said his office would “investigate and defend the claims as appropriate.” He added that because the lawsuit “alleges violations of federal law” his office on Friday requested it be transferred to federal court.
Rebecca Lewis, the mother of Ryker Lewis, one of the students named in the lawsuit, filed the action in Jackson County Circuit Court on June 30. The lawsuit names district Superintendent Jim Finley and former Superintendent Paul Kinder, as well as several middle and high school principals, assistant principals, teachers and school counselors.
The lawsuit says that Ryker, who was 15 at the time of his May 2014 death, took his own life eight months after his “best friend,” Ethan Young, committed suicide.
It claims that years before his death, Ryker and Ethan, “as well as some of their other friends, had experienced bullying,” at Moreland Ridge Middle School and the Blue Springs Freshman Center.
It goes on to say that complaints about bullying had been generally made to school leaders, but was “ignored and often met with those who were bullied being subjected to punishment or further bullying.” And it says that neither Ryker nor his school friends ever received district protection from “the constant and ongoing abuse and harassment by his classmates.”
Also named in the lawsuit are John Doe 1,2, and 3, and Jane Doe 1, 2, and 3, who are the parents of students who allegedly, while in the school cafeteria, told Ryker to “go kill himself,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit claims that, well before either of the friends took their own lives, “Blue Springs Freshmen Center had a reputation that it was somewhere they could expect to be bullied because it was just the way it was there ....”