Two family members of Tesa Middlebrook, a Pointe Coupee Central High School student who hanged herself from the school’s football bleachers in March have sued the school, saying that school officials failed to protect her from persistent bullying.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday on behalf of Tesa’s grandmother Joan Derson, and her aunt, Rhonda Middlebrook, claims staff at the school failed to account for Tesa’s presence in school after she attended her homeroom on Friday, March 3, despite the fact that Tesa had been placed on a school “Watch List” and her whereabouts were supposed to be monitored.
After the homeroom class, “no teacher, counselor, school administrator or any PCCHS staff member subsequently took roll or noticed that she did not attend subsequent classes,” the suit states.
The suit says Advance Baton Rouge and PCCHS violated its own policies by not checking roll or taking attendance during the day, the suit alleges.
“Tesa Middlebrook’s death was completely preventable had ABR and PCCHS Staff followed their own policies and procedures and taken reasonable and appropriate actions to protect the life and welfare of Tesa Middlebrook,” the suit says.
The suit asks for “funeral costs” and other unspecified damages.
Matt Broussard, a spokesman for Advance Baton Rouge, said he could not comment on the suit because he had not seen it yet.
The Pointe Coupee Parish Coroner’s Office said Tesa died around midday, but her family did not know anything was wrong until she failed to get off the bus at 4:30 that afternoon, Tesa’s uncle, Michael Derson, said in March.
Tesa had complained of bullying for several years, the suit says.
PCCHS staff were aware of Tesa’s complaints of bullying and her grandmother, Joan Derson, had met with school staff on three occasions to request intervention, the suit alleges.
Middlebrook’s emotional state was such that she had to be hospitalized after an “emotional breakdown” in the 2011-2012 school year, the suit says.
Middlebrook’s death was part of the impetus for “anti-bullying” legislation, SB 709, that won approval in the Senate Education Committee earlier this week. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Rick Ward III, D-Maringouin, and is titled the Tesa Middlebrook Anti-Bullying Act.
Under the bill, parents and students could appeal any lack of response by school officials — a common complaint — to the local school board and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved