School System Must Pay For Bullying Victim's Medical Costs
by Andrea Cline-Thomas
WHITE HOUSE, Tenn. – Years of bullying culminated in an attack that left a Midstate student legally blind in one eye. Now that school district has to pay up for not protecting him.
Parent Misty Phillips said she tried to speak to administrators at White House Heritage School about the bullying her son was experiencing.
"Anyone that I could catch or that would listen to me or try to get them to listen to me… I would beg them just to make the bullying stop," she said.
Phillips told NewsChannel 5 her pleas for help went unanswered. Her son, Jacob Gentry, described the bullying.
"They would shove me into lockers. They would take my backpack and run through the school with it and stuff," Jacob said, now age 19.
Jacob suffered from Asperger's syndrome.
"It's a high functioning form of autism," Phillips explained. "They're so smart. Part of their IQ is so high."
While in school, Jacob was a great student, but struggled socially.
"They have trouble making friends and they have trouble relating to people," attorney Jonathan Street explained about Asperger's patients.
In May 2006 when Jacob was in the 7th grade, his teacher left students alone in the classroom. That's when court documents explain, a student identified by the initials W.K. "swung a textbook backwards at Jacob striking him in the eye."
"The school failed their duty to Misty and to Jacob. They failed to keep them from harm," said Street.
The incident left Jacob legally blind.
"It's very frustrating but you cannot give up on your kids," said Phillips.
She sued the Robertson County Board of Education. This week Phillips found out she won her lawsuit and was awarded $300,000, the maximum allowed under state law.
The district has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
"I hope no child has to go through this ever again," Phillips added.
Jacob had a message to the kids who are being bullied.
"If it's at all possible they need to find somebody to help them get out of the situation, because things can go wrong, and things can happen to you that can't change," he said.
Jacob said he still deals with the pain every day. He has had multiple surgeries. Misty said the medical bills have topped more than $92,000.
The student responsible for hitting Jacob was charged with aggravated assault and sentenced to community service. When he turned 18 his record was expunged.
Officials with the Robertson County School District did not respond to NewsChannel 5's request for comment.