Indiana parents sue school system in beating, bullying of son
Though the words were hurtful, the bullying came to a head last week when a student allegedly attacked David and beat him in a hallway at Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind., his parents said Monday at their attorney’s Merrillville, Ind., office.
“He was just punching him” while a group of other students watched, David’s mother said of the bully. “Every time (David) tried to get up, he would knock him on his face and back,” she said, her voice breaking. He focused on his eyes.”
The Haddad family filed a lawsuit in Lake County, Ind., Monday asserting that school officials failed to protect the 17-year-old junior from at least seven bullies who targeted him and taunted him because of his Middle Eastern heritage.
The lawsuit claims the school district, school board President George Baranowski, Superintendent Lawrence Veracco, Principal Robert McDermott and Assistant Principal Sean Begley knew there had been physical altercations and harassment for a year but failed to intervene.
Calls to each of the school officials were not returned. A woman who answered the phone at the school district, Lake Central School Corporation, said they had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment.
The Haddad family seeks unspecified damages from a jury trial.
With pictures of their son’s bruised and battered face displayed, Hind and Osama Haddad spoke to reporters to “to ask for safety and justice.”
“It’s obvious the hate, the way they hit him,” Osama Haddad said, calling the fight a hate crime.
St. John police were called, said the family’s attorney, Kenneth J. Allen. The Police Department referred questions to the chief, who was not available late Monday.
David’s parents said at the news conference they are Catholic and have lived in the United States for more than three decades after leaving their native Jordan. They said their son was called “terrorist” and “little bin Laden,” and students brought David “presents” because Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi had been killed.
Allen said students told David: “We brought you a present because we killed your uncle” and “We finally got your relatives.”
The fight Nov. 8 left David with three hematomas on his head, bruises on both of his eyes and scratches, among other injuries, his parents said. Allen said the teenager is suffering from vision problems and vertigo.
“You think your son is in school, in a safe place,” Hind Haddad said. “I’m afraid for him to go back to school.”
David has not gone back to the high school since the fight, and his mother said she didn’t know if or when he would return.
The family spoke with school officials during the last year about threats and verbal harassment, but nothing was done, the parents said.
“The administration turned a blind eye to threats of violence — to bullying,” Allen said.