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Bullied Student Sues School for $10 Million

BOISE (CN) — Classmates harassed, beat and raped a fellow student because he has disabilities and is black, and school staff did nothing to stop it, he claims in Federal Court.

Antwon McDaniel, who seeks $10 million in damages, was adopted by Tim and Shelly McDaniel when he was 4. He was soon diagnosed with mental disorders, as well as cognitive and learning disabilities, he says in his May 13 lawsuit against Dietrich School District No. 314 and 11 people, including top administrators, the school board, employees and volunteers.

The disabilities, along with his skin color, made him a target of physical and mental abuse, specifically at the hands of a white Texas transfer named John Howard, who is described in the lawsuit as a "large and aggressive male who had been sent to live with his relatives in Idaho due to his inability to keep out of trouble in Texas."

Howard is not a party to the complaint. In the summer of 2015, Howard landed in the predominantly white, south central agricultural town of Dietrich, Idaho, pop. 338, where McDaniel's attorney, R. Keith Roark, says he played the role of big fish in a small pond.

"We think that he indeed was cutting a rather wide swath in a very small school and made Antwon his target early on," Roark said in an interview Monday.

McDaniel says school staff looked the other way while Howard and his followers harassed him with racial slurs such as "nigger," "chicken eater," and "watermelon."

But that was just the tip of the iceberg, according to McDaniel, who says the harassment increased in severity, including during football practice, where teammates aggressively "hump[ed]" him and jumped on him from behind, simulating anal sex.

During a bus ride home from a football game, teammates forcibly stripped him and took photos with a cellphone. He also was forced to sing a racially charged Ku Klux Klan song that Howard learned in Texas, according to the complaint.

In late August 2015, the coaching staff held a training camp on farm property that was aimed at "toughening up" the players. McDaniel says his teammates and coaches formed a circle as a makeshift boxing ring and immediately pitted him, with boxing gloves, against Howard, who was bare-fisted, and beat him unconscious.

"The beating of the plaintiff was accompanied by catcalls, taunts and racial epithets of the football players/students in full view of the coaches who not only failed to prevent the abuse but actively promoted it," according to the lawsuit.

The bullying came to a vicious climax on Oct. 23, 2015, when teammates cornered McDaniel in the locker room and used a coat hanger to anally rape him, the complaint states.

Specifically, it states: "Several of the plaintiff's teammates, students at the Dietrich School, physically accosted the plaintiff. One of them pretended to hug the plaintiff, bending him downward while another, Tanner Ward, physically forced a coat hanger into the plaintiff's rectum. John Howard then kicked the hanger several times, forcing it further into plaintiff's rectum."

Ward is not a party to the lawsuit.

McDaniel says the coaches should have been there to stop it.

"The plaintiff screamed and cried out, but no staff member came to his assistance or even attempted to investigate the clamor from within the locker room," the complaint states.

It adds: "Although coaching staff was typically located just outside of the locker room, there was no policy or procedure for monitoring what went on inside the locker room and the plaintiff, on this and other occasions, was left to fend for himself in an extremely hostile environment."

McDaniel says he did not tell his parents what happened, but his younger brother heard about it from other students and told them on the evening after the attack. McDaniel was taken to a hospital and treated for rectal injuries.

Howard and Tanner were arrested and criminally charged for the assault, according to attorney Roark.

"Howard returned to Texas shortly after this incident occurred," Roark said. "But he was charged with the crime and was arrested in Texas. He waived extradition and appeared before the court a couple of weeks ago for his initial appearance. I believe he has been scheduled for a preliminary hearing."

Roark said a third Dietrich student has been charged under the Juvenile [Justice and Delinquency] Act and admitted to his role in the attack.

"It was as brutal an attack as I have seen in my 40 years as a prosecutor," Roark said.

Defendant Dietrich School District Superintendent Benjamin Hardcastle did not immediately return a phone call or respond to an email seeking comment Monday afternoon.

McDaniel seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, failure to train, negligent supervision, racial discrimination, and violations of the federal and state constitutions.

Attorney Roark, of Hailey, is assisted by E. Lee Schlender, of Mountain Home.

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