Saturday, November 21, 2009

WI: Former Elmbrook student sues district over abuse

A former Pilgrim Park Middle School student who claims she withstood 270 instances of abuse during the 2007-'08 school year is suing the Elmbrook School District in federal court in Milwaukee.

The student says that in one attack two fellow students beat her using track shoes with metal spikes during a track meet at Mukwonago High School in May 2008, causing 38 puncture wounds. The lawsuit, filed this week, also details an incident from June 2008, when she says three students beat her with three-foot-long tree limbs on school property.

Eventually, the perpetrators were charged with crimes for their roles in the Pilgrim Park student's abuse, according to the lawsuit.

The girl and her parents say they were forced to move out of the school district to ensure that she would not have to attend school with the students who they say were primarily responsible for the abuse. They say their move to New Berlin cost them $400,000.

They contend the Elmbrook district and its employees failed to protect the girl, who was in seventh grade at the time and had special needs, despite being informed of the abuse.

They said the girl, who is identified only as "Jane Doe" in the federal complaint, has suffered physical pain, scarring and mental health problems for which she is receiving therapy.

Elmbrook Superintendent Matt Gibson denied that the family had to leave the district. He said none of the students identified in the attacks on the girl is attending the district anymore and that there was no threat that she would have had to attend school with them again.

He also said that the students who abused the girl had been disciplined at various times throughout the school year prior to the tree-limb incident, which took place on the last day of school.

"Certainly they (the parents) raised concerns at junctures and consequences happened at junctures, but not to their satisfaction," Gibson said.

The district prevailed in previous complaints that the family filed over the incidents with the state Department of Public Instruction, Gibson said. The DPI investigated the complaints, which were dismissed in November 2008, he said.

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