Suit claims attacker had history of violence but was protected because he was an athlete

The parents of a 16-year-old Sherwood High School student are suing the Sherwood School District in federal court alleging that their son was bullied, harassed and assaulted by another student two years ago.

The suit, filed Aug. 19 in Portland's U.S. District Court, claims the district failed to take appropriate steps to prevent what eventually resulted in 'an unprovoked and brutal physical attack on Oct. 29, 2009, on the premises of the Sherwood High School.'

The lawsuit seeks $275,000 in damages. It also names as defendants former Superintendent Dan Jamison, former Principal Michelle DeBoard, former Assistant Principal Matthew Boring and school counselor Melissa Goff, along with the parents of the youth accused of the assault.

According to the lawsuit the victim, who was 14 at the time, accidentally bumped into a sophomore student in September 2009. The younger classmate claims he apologized, but the sophomore began taunting him with frequent profanities. (The students are only identified by their initials throughout the document.)

On Oct. 29, the suit says a crowd of students gathered to watch as the sophomore attacked (him) 'without provocation or justification, with a right-handed closed fist punch to (the younger student's) face, the force of which knocked (his) front tooth...out of his mouth and broke his nose.' The assailant allegedly followed by knocking the younger boy down with a 'leg sweep' takedown.

As a result, the younger boy had to have dental surgery and was unable to 'compete in basketball tryouts, missed time from school, suffered diminished grade performance and has been forced to the recognition that his school environment is not safe and that he is in constant peril of imminent future harm,' according to the lawsuit.

It further alleges that the older student had prior issues with 'bullying, intimidations and hyper-aggressive acts' that the district knew about, and that the sophomore was an athlete who was protected by the district because he was part of a team headed to a state championship.

The plaintiff's attorney, Steven M. McCarthy of Independence, said Monday that the older student had been a problem and the school district knew about it.

'The problem really is the culture,' McCarthy said.

Superintendent Heather Cordie, who wasn't with the district at the time of the incident, said the lawsuit had been given to the school district's attorneys and that the district can't comment on ongoing litigation.

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