The parents of a 12-year-old black Texas girl who suffered serious rope burns around her neck during an overnight field trip are suing their daughter’s private school, claiming in a lawsuit filed this week that her white classmates injured her on purpose.
In a lawsuit seeking $3 million filed Monday in Travis County against Live Oak Classical School and the owner of Germer Ranch, where the incident occurred, attorney Levi McCathern said the so-called attack was racially motivated.
Sandy Rogely had enrolled her daughter — referred to in the suit as "K.P." — in the largely white private school in 2014, and though the girl initially flourished at the $7,000-a-year institute, she began having problems with other children in fall 2016, according to the lawsuit.
“K.P. began to come home with disturbing reports that her classmates did not accept her, would not talk with her, and even physically bullied her,” the suit said.
In two incidents described as “physical bullying,” K.P. was allegedly assaulted by one specific classmate.
“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,” McCathern wrote.
Rogely said she immediately contacted the school, but her "pleas for help were met with deference to the Live Oak boy who bullied K.P."
Then, during an end-of-year overnight class camping trip to Lawrence Germer’s ranch on April 28, K.P. and 21 other children came across a rope swing hanging from a tree while they explored the property.
K.P. helped pull the seat of the swing back using a long rope and then watched as other children took turns on the swing, with her back to three boys, who are white, who were standing within arm’s length, the lawsuit said. In the group of boys was the same classmate who allegedly bullied her.
“During one swing, K.P. watched as some of the other kids pulled the pull-rope back, ready to swing another child. She watched the kids let the rope go, thinking this was just like every other turn.
"However, 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 lawsuit said.
Pictures of the swing and rope allegedly involved in the attack were included in the lawsuit. (Levi McCathern)
The rope cut into her skin and left “a severe and painful burn.”
“K.P. looked up, and saw the three boys an arm’s length from where she was laying,” it continued. “None of the three boys, nor anyone else, helped her off the ground or helped remove the rope from her neck as they would have done if it had been an accident.”
The girl got up on her own, unwrapped the rope from her neck and found the school principal and another chaperone, who applied Vaseline to her neck and gave her Motrin, but K.P.’s mother was never notified of the incident, the suit claims.
The next day, “Sandy waited in the parking lot to pick up K.P., and 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.”
Rogely brought her daughter to the emergency room, where she was treated for severe rope burns around her neck.
“Sandy recalls doctors commenting on the severity of the injury,” the suit said.
Police were called to the hospital and are investigating the incident.
The lawsuit claims that no one from the school followed up with Rogely or K.P. that weekend to discuss what happened on the trip, nor did anyone explain why the girl’s mother wasn’t notified of her injury.
“Sandy was terrified for her daughter’s safety,” the document said. “Live Oak’s actions, and inactions, left K.P. with scars, both emotionally and physically. Sandy refused to allow her daughter to continue to be subject to this treatment, and she removed K.P. from Live Oak immediately.”
Since then, two separate families have come forward claiming they too took their children out of the school due to “relentless bullying that went unaddressed by the school,” the suit said.
The suit claims negligence, gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the school. It claims premises liability against Germer, alleging that the swing on Germer’s land was unsafe and that he knew of the risk but did nothing to eliminate it. The suit asks for $3 million.
“I asked for $3 million, and there are a lot of reasons for it,” McCathern told WacoTrib.com. “I think part of it is to compensate the victim, part of it is trying to send a message that we have to protect these defenseless kids up at school, and I think part of it is to punish the school for not taking care of the kids and following through with responsibilities to notify parents when they have a student that is seriously injured.
David Deaconson, a Waco attorney representing the school, told WacoTrib.com the incident was an accident and the school has since revised its parental notification protocol.
“My response would be that anyone can allege anything they want to in a petition, but that doesn’t make it fact,” he told the website. “Live Oak will continue to rely on and stand behind the actual facts and that this was an accident.”
The Blaco County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into the incident is ongoing.