District 118 sued after alleged bus attack

News-DemocratJuly 18, 2013 

A Belleville family is suing Belleville School District 118 for allegedly failing to protect a junior high school student from a bully.

According to the suit filed in St. Clair County court by Cora Jackson, her daughter, De'Ja Payne, a student at West Junior High School, was being harassed on the school bus by a boy who picked on her about her weight. When she told the boy to stop, the suit claims the student punched De'Ja in the face five times.

The attack, her suit says, left De'Ja with a broken nose, facial scarring and nose bleeds as well as mental pain and anguish, according to the suit.

Brian Kurth, of the Meyerkord and Meyerkord personal injury law firm in St. Louis, is the attorney for Jackson. He could not be reached for comment.

District 118 Superintendent Matt Klosterman said he couldn't comment directly about a pending lawsuit.

"All I can tell you is that student and staff safety has always been a priority for us and it always will be," Klosterman said.

The suit alleges that the other student had bullied the victim for several months prior to the attack and that the district did nothing to stop it despite the fact that the bus driver on that route was aware of the problem.

The lawsuit claims that District 118 was in violation of its own policy which states an aide must be on buses to monitor kids as they ride to and from school. If an aide would have been present, the suit alleges, the girl wouldn't have been injured.

The family is asking for $150,000 in damages.

Klosterman said this is the first time in his nine years with District 118 that he can recall the school system being sued over a bullying situation.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

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