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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ind. Courts - "School bullying case heads to trial"

Some quotes from a story this afternoon by Jeff Wiehe of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

FORT WAYNE – A settlement offered – and then rescinded – by the local Roman Catholic diocese to the parents of boy allegedly bullied at Most Precious Blood Catholic School will not be enforced, an Allen Superior Court judge ruled last month.

Now, a case that at one point looked to be done through a $20,000 deal made behind closed doors is headed for trial.

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and the parents of two students at Most Precious Blood were sued last year by the family of another student who claimed he endured bullying throughout 2008 and 2009 at the school.

This student, who had cerebral palsy and needed to wear leg braces, was allegedly pushed down stairs, battered and was subjected to “slanderous slurs regarding sexual orientation, physical abilities, and negative information regarding the parents,” according to the lawsuit.

After some mediation, the diocese and the parents of the alleged bullies agreed to settle the suit on two conditions: the specifics of the settlement and even that there was a settlement would not be made public.

The Journal Gazette, however, obtained a copy of the settlement in November, which called for the parents of the bullied boy to be paid nearly $20,000 – $10,000 of which was to come from the diocese, the rest from the parents of the students accused of the bullying.

Upon publication of the settlement the diocese rescinded the offer, according to court records. In a statement to the Journal Gazette, officials with the diocese wrote:

“Based on its investigation the diocese considers the claims baseless. Despite its conviction that the claims made against the Diocesan Parties were false, the Diocese wished to end the lawsuit so that those falsely accused of these allegations ... could go on with their lives without having to be continually involved in the legal proceedings.”

The parents of the bullied student, claiming they did not release the settlement, tried to have the settlement enforced.

Judge David Avery ruled that though the parents were not at fault for the settlement appearing in the press, he could not force the diocese to stick to the settlement because there was a breach of confidentiality.

Thus, the case goes on.

But not without a bit of a warning to the diocese from Avery, who wrote in his ruling to not enforce the settlement:

“However, it is well to consider the adage: Be careful what you ask for. The Court wonders if the trial of this dispute will now result in potentially worse publicity for Most Precious Blood School than if the matter were resolved with the Diocese’s explanation for why it was settling the case.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 12, 2012 03:51 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts