School Assailed on Rope Around Black Texan’s Neck

     AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Three Texas sixth-graders threw a rope around a black classmate’s neck and jerked her to the ground, giving her rope burns so severe that police were called in, the girl’s mother claims in court.
     Sandy Rougely says she had heard good things about Live Oak Classical School — a private school in Waco with a $7,000 yearly tuition and a mostly white student body — and thought it would provide a “wholesome learning environment” for her daughter, K.P.
     Rougely applied for scholarships for K.P. and saved money from her paychecks to enroll her daughter in the fifth grade in 2014, she says in her June 13 complaint in Travis County Court.
     She says her daughter flourished during that school year, which made her feel that her sacrifice had set the child on the path to a bright, college-bound future.
     But as sixth grade began, Rougely says, her daughter told her that her classmates were snubbing and bullying her.
     “Specifically, on two of the most severe occasions, K.P. was physically bullied by one boy. In one incident, the boy pushed K.P. to the ground in the cubby room, and in the other, he kicked, pushed, and shoved her during a class assignment when the teacher was not looking,” the complaint states.
     Rougely says she contacted the principal about the bully and asked how the school would protect her daughter.
     “The school’s response was that the bullying had been an ‘accident’ and that the boy not meant to push K.P. to the ground,” the complaint states.
     “The school also responded that the incident when the same boy kicked, pushed, and shoved K.P. was just ‘something kids sometimes do’ and ‘[the boy] didn’t remember pushing her or kicking her.'” (Brackets in complaint.)
     Rather than deal with the bully, Rougely says, school administrators sent her several emails expressing concerns about K.B.’s social skills.
     The school’s sixth-grade class takes a camping trip at the end of end of each school year. Rougely says she asked to be one of the parent chaperones out of concern for her daughter, but the school chose four other parents to accompany the 22 students to the Germer Ranch in Blanco County.
     “When K.P. and the other children reached Germer Ranch, they began to explore the property and found a rope swing hanging from a tree,” the complaint states. “The swing was a single rope, with one end tied to a branch of the tree, and the other end holding a circular seat that a child would sit in.”
     A second, longer rope was tied to the chair that the children pulled on to swing their classmates, Rougely says.
     As K.P. stood by the side of the rope swing, her mother says, three boys, including the classroom bully, stood behind her, plotting.
     “She did not see what the boys behind her were doing, and the next thing K.P. knew, she felt the rope wrap around her neck and she was violently jerked to the ground with the pull-rope wrapped around her neck. The rope cut into her skin and left a severe and painful bum,” the complaint states.
     K.P. looked up from the ground and saw the three boys within arm’s length of her, her mom says.
     “None of the three boys, nor anyone else, helped her off the ground or helped remove the rope from her neck,” the lawsuit states.
     Rope burns on the girl’s neck are plainly visible in photos published by Texas news outlets.
     K.P. tossed the rope off and went to find an adult. She found the principal, Allison Buras, who was supposed to be watching the kids swing, but Buras did not bother to find out whether the assault was intentional, though she knew one of the boys had bullied K.P. in the classroom, the mother says.
     Buras is not a defendant.
     Another chaperone put Vaseline on K.P.’s neck and gave her ibuprofen, Rougely says.
     “K.P.’s mother was never notified her child had been injured, and was not told that the boy who bullied her in the past was right behind her when it happened,” the complaint states.
     The group spent the night at the ranch and returned to Waco the next evening to the school’s parking lot, where Rougely was waiting to pick up K.P, according to the complaint.
     “When she got in the car, Sandy thought K.P.’s neck had been ripped open and stitched back together based on how the injury appeared,” the complaint states.
     Rougely says she rushed out of her car and sought answers from a chaperone, who directed her to Buras. Maintaining her nonchalant attitude about K.P.’s bullying, Rougely says, Buras downplayed the injury.
     “She said that K.P. had received a rope burn but indicated it was not matter of concern. Sandy informed Ms. Buras that she would be taking K.P. to the emergency room immediately for a medical professional to evaluate K.P.’s injuries. Ms. Buras acted shocked,” the lawsuit states.
     At the emergency room, doctors kept saying how bad the injury was, Rougely says.
     “The police were notified, and an officer came to take a report. Upon seeing K.P.’s injuries, the officer immediately called the crime scene unit, who came to the hospital and took photographs of K.P.’s neck for use in a police investigation.”
     Rougely says no one from the school called to check on K.P. or offer to pay her medical bills that weekend.
     She says Buras emailed her this message the next Monday morning: “I just wanted to check on [K.P.]. Did you take her to the doctor? How is she? We were glad to have a doctor on our trip who could check her out or we also might have felt a need to take her in. I remember getting rope bums as a child and they are not fun! I hope she is doing okay.”
     Rougely says one of the school’s founders, nonparty Alison Moffatt, also emailed: “When you’re ready to talk, I’m available. I think I can explain to you what happened and bring you some peace.”
     Despite the belated outreach from school officials, Rougely says, she was “terrified for her daughter’s safety” and immediately took her out of the school.
     “Even if this incident was unintentional, the school’s lack of supervision to let this happen, dismissive and tone deaf response after it happened, and refusal to investigate until legally prompted to, showed an utter disregard for one of the only African-American children in the school,” the complaint states.
     As word spread in the media about the incident, Rougely says, two other families said they also had pulled their children from the school “due to relentless bullying that went unaddressed” and that school officials had given them the same excuse: “It was just something kids do.”
     She seeks $3 million in punitive damages from the school for negligence, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She also seeks damages from Lawrence Germer, the ranch owner, for premises liability.
     She is represented by Levi McCathern in Dallas.
     The school did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.

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