UPDATE: Family sues PHM for negligence, false light in bullying case

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GRANGER, Ind. (WNDU) - A Granger family filed a lawsuit against Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation Wednesday over a bullying and assault incident at the end of the 2018-2019 school year at Discovery Middle School.

The lawsuit alleges the school corporation was negligent and breached its fundamental duty to keep students safe. The maximum amount of money that could be awarded in this type of civil case is $700,000.

The attorney representing the family spoke to 16 News Now Friday to tell their side of the story.

"The attack resulted in a concussion, bleeding, multiple contusions and severe psychological trauma to this young eighth-grade student," attorney Donald Schmid said. "This was not a one-off bullying incident but instead was part of a pattern of repeated bullying."

The 14-year-old was attacked in one of the school's bathrooms on April 8, and video of the attack was posted on the internet and social media.

Two students were later arrested and charged.

The lawsuit alleges the victim had been bullied for some time leading up to the attack, and the school knew about it and failed to take adequate steps to stop it.

"It appears based on this case and others that we've learned about in the investigation of this case that Penn-Harris-Madison wants to bury its head in the sand and pretend that bullying is not a problem," Schmid says.

Because of the injuries the boy reportedly suffered in the attack, he missed school and extracurriculars.

"The student who attacked my client actually threatened the attack earlier that day," Schmid said.

Leading up to the attack, the lawsuit claims then-Principal Sheryll Harper personally witnessed the alleged attacker bully the alleged victim, and her response, along with the official response of the school district, was negligent, "and this negligence was a cause of the attack on April 8."

In addition to alleging negligence, the lawsuit accuses the school district of false light, claiming administrators inaccurately said the alleged victim spit on his alleged attacker.

16 News Now reached out to school district administrators and received a response saying that, "On the advice of legal counsel, we are not allowed to make any comments on this matter."

Schmid and the family hopes that, through the lawsuit, they can change the culture at PHM schools with regard to bullying.

"Policy says that bullying would be dealt with immediately and immediately addressed, and it hasn't been," Schmid said.