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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Beaten Up at a Meeting on Bullying

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A bully punched a student in the face seven times during a meeting called to address bullying, while school officials watched and did nothing to stop it, the victim's father claims in court.

Faruq Robinson sued the School District of Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission, school principal Annette Gittleman and five other school employees, on behalf of his daughter, Imani Batista.

Batista became a victim of bullying in the fall of 2011, when she was a seventh-grader at Andrew Hamilton School, according to the federal lawsuit.

Batista told her parents that another student, Avery Brooks, was kicking, stalking and intimidating her, and the parents reported the problem to defendant Gittleman and to a school counselor, according to the complaint.

The father claims school officials took no action, though they were aware of Brooks' history of violent behavior, fighting, disobedience and yelling at teachers.

He claims they refused to suspend, expel or transfer Brooks even after Brooks assaulted his daughter at school, injuring her.

After Robinson and his late wife went to school several times to discuss the bullying, the school scheduled a meeting to address their complaint that nothing was being done to protect their daughter, according to the lawsuit.

School employees allowed Brooks, who was at the meeting with her mother, to sit close to Batista, without arranging for security or taking other steps to protect her, the father claims.

He says Brooks assaulted his daughter again during the meeting, while school employees watched.

The complaint states: "During the meeting, Avery Brooks was becoming visibly agitated while her behavior was being discussed - shortly thereafter, she got up and went to Imani Batista, and punched her in the head and face approximately seven times; none of the defendants, who were sitting near and next to Avery Brooks, did anything to restrain her prior to or during the attack; defendants had a duty to protect Imani Batista at all times during the meeting, including before the attack and during the attack, by restraining Avery Brooks, as soon as she stood up and approached Imani Batista, rather they sat and viewed Avery Brooks repeatedly punch Imani Batista in her head and face, leaving only her mother to attempt to physically stop the attack."

The father says his daughter needed extensive medical treatment, and transferred to another school because of the defendants' failure to protect her.

After the assault, Batista's mother went to school with her daughter every day and sat in her classroom to protect her, until school officials stopped her from doing so, according to the complaint.

Robinson claims the school district and its employees ignored violent behavior and bullying, failed to stop it or report it to police, disregarded repeated complaints from students and parents, and failed to provide proper security at school.

He seeks compensatory and punitive damages for civil rights and state law violations.

He is represented by Reginald Allen.

The school district's Office of General Counsel could not be reached for comment after business hours.

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