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Monday, November 5, 2018

Black Girl Whose White Classmates Put Rope Around Her Neck Awarded $68,000

Photos of the rope burn on her neck

Photos of the rope burn on her neck

Austin, TX — The family of a Black girl who claims her white classmates violently put a rope around her neck has been awarded $68,000. A jury in Austin, Texas has ordered the private school where she attended to pay damages for their failure to properly and immediately address the apparent bullying the girl had long experienced.

In 2016, the family filed a lawsuit against Live Oak Classical School in Waco, Texas after their daughter, who was then 12-years old and identified only as K.P. in court documents, suffered from rope burns on her neck during their end-of-year school trip to Johnson City, Texas.

Her mother, Sandy Rougely, saw her daughter’s injury when she returned home and learned it was caused by a rope. Rougely said in a 2016 interview, “That just tore me into pieces. It looked like somebody ripped my daughter’s neck off and stitched it back together.”

According to the lawsuit, the incident happened when the girl was standing near a swing that was hanging from a tree which has a separate rope used to pull it higher. K.P. claimed three of her classmates, who often bullied her, used the separate rope to pull around her neck and violently jerked her to the ground.

The family’s lawyer, Levi G. McCathern II, believes race is a factor why the school didn’t immediately inform the parents about the disturbing incident. He said, “If it had been a little white girl they would have been on the phone with her mother within the hour.”

David N. Deaconson, the lawyer for the school, recognized that it was their mistake not to call the girl’s mother but denied the racism accusation. He also maintained that the girl’s injury has resulted from an accident wherein several children who were pulling on the rope to raise the swing had let go of it and the rope accidentally whipped past the girl and hit her in the neck.

On Wednesday, the jury ordered the school to pay $55,000 for the girl’s physical pain and mental anguish, $10,000 for disfigurement sustained and $3,000 for medical expenses. But McCathern initially asked $5.3 million in punitive damages as a symbolic rejection of bullying. Despite that, both parties were somewhat satisfied with the verdict; the family’s lawyer still called it a victory.

“We were asking them to award symbolic damages to demonstrate the fact that the people of the state of Texas aren’t going to put up with that,” McCathern said.

The girl, who is now 15 years old, is being home-schooled.

Watch the news coverage below: