HENDERSON, Texas (KETK) – A lawsuit was filed against Henderson ISD on Tuesday that alleges the district ignored the bullying of a middle school student and retaliated against her mother after she made complaints.
According to the lawsuit, the student, who is identified in the lawsuit as a “person with a disability,” was a student at Henderson Middle School until her mother and stepfather removed her from the school in April 2022, “as the school district could not keep their daughter safe.”
“Mom and Dad complained to school district officials in the hopes to just calm things down,” Martin Cirkiel, the family’s lawyer with the Cirkiel Law Group said.
The family said in the lawsuit they made the district aware that the student in question had a history of emotional distress, depression, an eating disorder, panic attacks and had been hospitalized in the past for “suicidal ideation.”
According to the lawsuit, a fellow middle school student who knew “all about [her] mental health problems and eating disorder” started taunting her after they had a falling out in their friendship.
The lawsuit said the girl, identified in the lawsuit as KB, began to taunt her former friend for about two years. In February 2022, KB allegedly told the student in the hallway to “go kill yourself” and “nobody loves you” knowing her mental history.
“She was told to go kill herself, you know … and to our face, the school told us, ‘that’s not bullying, but that’s mean spirited.’ What we tried to make them understand is that, well it is a little bit different with our kid because she does have those issues,” Brittnie Everitt, the mother of the affected student said.
The girl’s parents reported the incident to the assistant principal, according to the lawsuit, and complained about the ongoing bullying. The lawsuit says the assistant principal told the parents, “you don’t understand how difficult the other parents are to deal with,” after saying he spoke with KB’s parents.
During a conversation between the parents and the principal, the lawsuit states the principal admitted an assistant principal had mishandled the bullying complaints and that the assistant principal needed additional training to properly address the situation.
The principal told her parents that she would do her own investigation into the harassment, but the lawsuit states they never heard back from her, and were unable to reach her when they attempted to contact her.
“KB and her friends, some in high school, began texting other students that there would be ‘consequences’ for people who sided with [the student],” the lawsuit said. “KB’s father called another family, reiterating that their child would too suffer retaliation if she sided with [the student].”
After the family’s continued complaints about the bullying, the lawsuit states the student’s mother who used to offer house cleaning services to several Henderson ISD officials, staff and their families for several years lost seven clients.
According to the lawsuit, several district officials instructed others and their families to stop using the mother’s services as a result of the bullying complaints, allegedly costing her thousands in lost income.
The family subsequently removed their daughter from the district as a direct result of the harassment, according to the lawsuit, and alleges that the district violated its own “Student Welfare” procedure developed to protect students by “turning a blind eye to the problem.”
KETK News reached out to Henderson ISD for a comment on the matter. Their response is quoted in full below:
“We have been made aware of a federal claim / lawsuit concerning HISD, but will not comment on any threatened litigation. Threats do not change our focus. Our teachers, staff and administrators remain dedicated to serving all of our students. Every decision we make, both in and out of the classroom, is founded on the core value of doing what’s best for kids. We will continue to foster a ‘teaching and learning’ environment where all students can thrive. And we will always encourage families to be advocates for their children, knowing it is only through a committed partnership between our teachers and our families that we can truly empower all students to achieve their dreams.”Henderson ISD Asst. Superintendent Amanda Wallace