Education

Sexual harassment, child abuse and softball: How school lawsuits cost taxpayers $410K

This story has been updated to show that a digital recorder captured alleged student abuse at Forestbrook Elementary School, according to a lawsuit.

Allegations of bullying, child abuse, sexual harassment and softball injuries: those lawsuits and others against Horry County Schools resulted in more than $410,000 in settlements and attorney fees paid by the state over the past five years.

The South Carolina State Insurance Reserve Fund paid out $278,300 in settlements and $134,150 in legal expenses between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2017, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Settlements included payouts of of $137,500 for a special needs child allegedly abused by his teacher and $75,000 for a student who was injured playing softball.

Another $25,000 payout settled a case of a child being bullied at school.

Teacher abuse

During the 2013-14 school year, a teacher allegedly abused a special needs child attending Forestbrook Elementary School, according to a lawsuit.

Court documents say the teacher subjected him to “a steady stream of abuse, physical violence and neglect.”

The teacher and teacher’s assistant repeatedly told the student he was “bad and had to be punished,” according to court documents.

The student was forced into a bathroom where he suffered mental and physical abuse that was captured on a digital recorder, according to the lawsuit.

The district settled the case and documents show the state insurance reserve fund paid out $137,500 to the defendants, and another $23,000 in legal fees.

Zip lining and softball

In December 2012, a JROTC student was injured while zip lining at St. James High School.

According to court documents, the student was still getting out of the zip line harness when it was pulled back to the upper level, causing the student to fall and rupture his spleen. The lawsuit claims he spent 13 days in the hospital and required surgery to remove his spleen.

Then in February, the JROTC instructor allowed the student to play softball under his supervision, despite the instructor’s previous recommendation that the student not participate in any physical activities, court documents say.

He took a “hard tag” to the area where his spleen was removed and had to spend three more days in the hospital, according to court documents.

The case was dismissed and the state paid out more than $70,000 in medical bills, according to court and state insurance reserve fund documents.

The bullied student

In November 2014, a student was allegedly bullied at Socastee High School when a group of assailants pretended to befriend him, and while videoing the encounter, put a trashcan on his head and “pushed, hit, punched and ridiculed” him, according to a lawsuit.

The student suffered mentally and physically and withdrew from the school out of fear for his safety, according to court documents.

The defendants settled the case for $25,000.

Suggestive texts

In December of 2017, the insurance reserve fund paid out $7,500 after a special education teacher sued Horry County Schools alleging sexual harassment and Title IX violations.

The teacher alleged that her supervisor sent her suggestive text messages in July 2012, one timing asking her “how would u rate yourself in bed,” according to court documents.

The suit alleges that on several occasions, the teacher’s supervisor “would come to the plaintiff’s house intoxicated and push his way into the plaintiff’s house and sit on the couch.”

In April 2013, the supervisor said he wished he “could get up in” the plaintiff’s dress, according to the suit.

The teacher’s lawsuit alleges that the district retaliated against the teacher by terminating her position.

In a response, the school district denied nearly all allegations, including those of sexual harassment and retaliatory termination before settling for $7,500.

Christian Boschult: 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian

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