Editor’s note: The following language is taken directly from a lawsuit filed in Ellsworth County on Wednesday, with editing to remove information such as the initials of minors allegedly involved, addresses of defendants, etc.
A story that summarizes this information and includes comments from Michelle O'Neil can be found by clicking here.
A Great Bend woman has filed a suit against Great Bend USD 428, its school board, administrators and others on behalf of her son, who was allegedly assaulted by fellow swim team members on a school bus in Ellsworth County.
Michelle O’Neil filed the suit Wednesday in Ellsworth County District Court, naming her son and herself as plaintiffs.
Defendants named in the suit are: Unified School District 428; the Board of Education; board members Joyce Carter, Charles Umphres, Larry Kutina, Kevin Mauler, Lori Reneau, Cheryl Rugan, Susan Young, in their official capacities; Superintendent Brad Reed; Activities Director David Meter; swim coaches Steve Beaumont and Keith Moeder; GBHS Principal Tim Friess; bus driver Marilyn Holinde; and the parents of four youths who allegedly battered her son on the way home from a swim meet: Bruce and Carol Furrey, Brian and Carie Pedigo, Dan and Linda Boone, and Connie Bobbitt.
The suit states:
O’Neil’s son was enrolled as a freshman at GBHS and was on the swim team. On or about Saturday Feb. 6, the team participated in a swim meet in Manhattan. During the return bus trip four juveniles physically attacked the plaintiff in Ellsworth County. They restrained him and attempted to remove his clothing. While continuing to restrain the plaintiff, they attempted to spread his buttocks and insert various objects into his rectum.
The vicious, unprovoked attack caused physical and emotional injury to the plaintiff.
The bus driver, head coach Beaumont and assistant coach Moeder were on the bus; these adult employees of the school district had a duty to provide safe and proper supervision during this school sponsored athletic activity.
Near the city of Ellsworth, Beaumont, Moeder and Holinde learned of the attack. The bus was stopped in Ellsworth for a brief period of time and ultimately continued on to Great Bend High School. No report was made to law enforcement in Ellsworth County, and when the bus got to Great Bend the swim team members were allowed to disburse without any of the adults contacting authorities in Barton County.
On Monday, Feb. 8, the plaintiff, Michele O’Neil visited with defendant Tim Friess, Great Bend High School principal and defendant David Meter, USD 428 Activities Director regarding the incident on the bus.
On Feb. 9 O’Neil attempted to contact Friess and was unable to reach him. However, she was advised by Meter that the matter had been fully investigated and the matter was closed; in fact two of the aggressors were allowed to participate in the Kansas State High School Activities Association swim meet on Feb. 19 and 20.
On or about April 5, the Barton County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had completely investigated the situation regarding activities on the Unified School District 428 school bus transporting the Great Bend High School swim team on Wednesday, Feb. 3, from Salina to Great Bend. The investigation by the Barton County Sheriffs Office indicated that probable cause existed for charges to be filed against members of the Great Bend High School swim team.
On or about April 1, the Ellsworth County Attorney filed unlawful restraint and battery charges against two members of the swim team for their role in the incident in which the plaintiff was the victim on Feb. 6 in Ellsworth County.
The Unified School District 428 School Board has not taken the incidents seriously and did not take any action when necessary to provide a safe atmosphere on its school district buses or USD 428 properties, namely Great Bend High School.
The plaintiff has not returned to Great Bend High School since February 5.
Count 1: The school board members have breached their duty to provide a safe learning environment by failing to hire competent employees that oversee the students during athletic activities in the school and driving transportation to and from activities. The suit seeks damages in excess of $75,000 and all other relief the Court deems just and proper and the costs of the action.
Count 2: Board members breached their duties to provide proper supervision by failing to hire competent employees that oversee the students during school activities in the school and while riding school transportation to and from activities. The suit seeks in excess of $75,000 for damages that resulted.
Count 3: The adults on the bus failed to provide proper supervision during the return bus trip from Manhattan, Kansas to Great Bend, Kansas and allowed the Plaintiff to be battered by five teammates on the Great Bend High School swim team. As a result, plaintiff has been damaged and seeks in excess of $75,000.
Count 4: Reed, Friess and Meter have a legal duty to provide proper supervision during school activities. They have breached their duties to provide proper supervision by failing to hire competent employees that oversee the students during school activities in the school and while riding transportation to and from activities. As a result of the breach of duty by the above referenced Defendants, the Plaintiff has been damaged and has occurred significant physical and emotional injuries. The damages of the Plaintiffs herein are in excess of $75,000.
Count 5: The school officials and bus driver had a legal duty under K.S.A. 38-2223 to report to law enforcement when any suspicion that a child has been harmed as the result of physical, mental or emotional abuse or neglect or sexual abuse. They failed to comply with their statutory duties to advise law enforcement. The only time law enforcement was advised of the activities on the Unified School District 428 school bus on February 6, 2016, when reports were made by the Plaintiff Michele O’Neil. Damage caused by this breach of duty results in a request for judgment in excess of $75,000.
Court 6-9: Damages are also sought from the parents who are listed as defendants. O’Neil’s attorney, Brock McPherson, said statute limits the amount of damages to request to $5,000 per family, and any other relief the court deems just and proper and the costs of the action. According to this portion of the complaint, O’Neil’s son was unlawfully restrained and sexually battered. As a result of the unlawful restraint and sexual battery he has sustained medical damage as well as physical and emotional damage. Said emotional damage shall require extensive therapy for a considerable period of time.