HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Presbyterian Christian School filed a motion to remove a civil lawsuit to federal court, arguing that it has original jurisdiction because the complaint is in regards to constitutional rights.
A parent of a former Presbyterian Christian School student filed the civil suit against the school, board members and other individuals regarding a disciplinary decision.
The suit was filed in Forrest County Circuit Court on Dec. 27, by Dewitt Williamson II, the father of the former PCS student. The suit also lists parties of those involved in the suit as Presbyterian Christian School, Ali Stayer, Mike Atkinson, Brian T. Smith, Jim Misner, Kyle Maxie, Claudia Powell, Sophia Sweetie Greer, and Does One through ten.
According to the suit, the pending litigation will bring to light the "inequitable, improper and unlawful practices and course of conduct which PCS, its Board and administration have engaged and continue to engage in with impunity."
PCS argued in a motion filed on Feb. 12, 2018, that the suit should be removed to the U.S. District Court for Southern Mississippi because the plaintiff's complaint asserts liability and the right to recover because of a violation of the student's constitutional rights, specifically violations of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The suit details an incident that occurred on in February 2017, and involved a now former student, who is a juvenile and the name is being withheld for that reason.
"On the morning of Friday, February 10, 2017, PCS principal Brian T. Smith called Mr. Williamson, the father of (student). Smith reported to the father, 'I am dealing with a disciplinary action against (student). Yesterday, (student) forcibly held down another student and asked him to perform sexual favors.' Smith directed (student's) father to come to the school and pick (student) up, no later than noon and not bring (student) back the following Monday."
The suit goes on to detail that Smith was not there to meet with the Mr. Williamson, and that the statements he made over the phone were patently false.
"Among other things, as PCS subsequently agreed and admitted, (student) did not forcibly hold down another student, nor did he ask anyone to perform sexual favors for him with any intention that it come to fruition," according to the suit.
Court documents show, what claims to be a "full and truthful description of events."
"After picking (student) up from school, Mr. and Mrs. Williamson asked (student) what had happened, and their (student) gave them a full and truthful description of events. Late the previous (Thursday) afternoon, while dressing for baseball practice in the locker room, (student) had responded to a dare from one of his teammates to tell another teammate (redacted) to (perform a sexual act)."
According to the suit, the conduct on the date in question is inconsistent with the exemplary course of conduct, and was perhaps influenced by the fact that (student) had forgotten to take the medication prescribed.
The incident was reported to coach Kyle Maxie, that a student was "sexually assaulted." That information was relayed to Smith, who "without further inquiry or even minimal investigation, summarily made the decision to immediately expel (student), the most extreme punishment the school can impose.
The suit claims neither Smith or PCS actually believed that (student) had committed sexual assault, because it was not reported to local authorities, as the law requires.
"In days that followed, (student) and his parents humbly took full responsibility for the incident. Each of them repeatedly expressed their sincere remorse and earnestly apologized. They literally begged for forgiveness. All their pleas were callously ignored. It was too late. Less than 24 hours after the incident, PCS had already made its irrevocable decision to permanently expel (student). (Student) was not provided his education for 20 consecutive days until he was permanently dismissed."
According to the court filing, the (student) was being charged with violating PCS's "sexual harassment" police, as that the punishment, if any, would be determined in accordance with the disciplinary procedures governing such charges.
The school's handbook describes that all complaints will be investigated thoroughly and promptly. "Should complaints (of sexual harassment) prove to be legitimate, the offender will be subject to disciplinary action that is determined by the PCS Board of Directors."
The suit claims these actions were taken without any board involvement, and goes on to claim that PCS has "routinely and repeatedly not enforced its rules and regulations in disciplining children of PCS board members who committed similar or more serious offenses than (student), even when they committed crimes punishable by law."
The documents detail that the PCS administration routinely overlooks privileged student's actions that should be disciplined in accordance to the handbook.
Multiple parties involved/named in the suit are PCS Board members, who also have children that attend PCS. The suit claims they have used their positions to "ensure that their own children were not disciplined by PCS, despite the fact that their children had committed acts at least as serious as those attributed to (student).
The forty-page filing details specific allegations about each of the parties claiming to be involved.
The filing claims that the plaintiff requests the following relief and damages:
- An award of compensatory, consequential, and incidental damages in an amount to be proven at the trial of this cause.
- The assessment of punitive damages against the defendants in an amount to be determined at trial.
- All costs, expenses and attorneys’ fees incurred by the plaintiff in bringing this action
- Other relief, in equity and at law, deemed appropriate by the court.
PCS Headmaster Allen Smithers was contacted for a comment regarding the suit, and he replied.
"The school was made aware of the potential lawsuit previously, and we will respond accordingly. We do not feel as though we should comment any further."
The full lawsuit can be found filed through the Forrest County Circuit Court's office.