DALLAS — A rope burn a 12-year-old black Texas girl received around her neck during an overnight school campout has left the girl's mother asking if her daughter was victimized by racially motivated bullying by sixth-grade classmates.
Sandy Rougely of Waco has retained a lawyer to press a personal injury claim against Live Oak Classical School, the private school where her daughter is enrolled. She told The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/1OCwVlr) for a story posted on its website Thursday that her daughter returned from the April 28 campout with the injury to the front half of her neck.
"It looked like somebody had ripped her neck apart and stitched it back together," she told the newspaper.
In a statement to the newspaper, school trustee Jeremy Counseller said the girl was injured accidentally by a rope swing and accused Rougley's attorney of exploiting the accident for financial gain.
"The student received first aid treatment immediately after the accident by a parent chaperon who is also a physician, and she was able to enjoy the remained of the field trip, which lasted through the next day," Counsellor said.
According to the newspaper, Counsellor's statement also accused the attorney of attempting to “exploit” the 100-year anniversary of the Jesse Washington lynching, which was May 15.
Counsellor said Rougely and her attorney, Levi McCathern of Dallas, asked the school to pay $2.7 million in damages or the allegations would be made public.
McCathern tells the newspaper they asked for money after the school requested a financial demand in writing.
The girl, whom the newspaper did not identify by name, said she was helping classmates pull a rope to move the swing when she stopped to watch. She said she felt nothing except the rope wrapping around her neck from behind and being pulled against her neck. She fell to the ground and was tugged backward. None of her classmates moved to help her, so she removed the rope, looked back and saw three boys, all of them white, who she said had been picking on her.
She said she asked if they had done it on purpose and they said no.
Rougely's daughter said the staff treated the injury with petroleum jelly and ibuprofen. Even if the injury were not the result of an intentional act, the school's handling of the situation was "beyond poor," said T.J. Jones, a lawyer with McCathern's law firm.
No one has been accused of a crime, and the school statement said all student and teacher eyewitnesses have been interviewed "and each independently established that the (racially motivated attack) accusation made by the attorney is absolutely false."
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com