×

Dresden Responds To Bullying Lawsuit



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Hanover — The Dresden School District last week denied allegations in a former student’s lawsuit that Hanover High School administrators failed to protect the child from harassment.

The 15-year-old boy and his mother filed suit in November over claims that school officials allowed taunts and physical attacks to continue throughout the 2016-17 year, despite repeated requests for help from the family.

The school district’s response, filed on Friday in U.S. District Court in Concord by Dresden’s attorney, Dona Feeney, denies the plaintiffs’ allegations of negligence and violations of the federal equal education law known as Title IX.

The 18-page rebuttal acknowledges that some of the incidents described by the family did occur, including a lewd drawing on his shoe and at least one violent episode in a school locker room. The Dresden response denies legal responsibility, however, and paints the boy as the aggressor in the physical incident.

The family’s complaint also says that alleged harassers used insulting sexual and gender-based epithets against the boy.

The Dresden response said that he encouraged his peers to call him at least one of those names — “Little D.,” as both sides rendered it in their filings.

Other harassment against the boy, including a sexual assault at a summer camp, did not occur on school grounds or during events organized by the school, so Dresden could not be liable for those allegations, the district said.

The mother and child, who have since relocated to the Burlington area, filed suit under initials, not their full names, to prevent future harassment, they said in their original complaint. Their attorney, Karen Hewes, of Manchester, said the school district’s rebuttal “does not come as a surprise.”

“The response does not provide any new information,” she said in an email on Tuesday. “Instead it underscores the fact that when reports of sexual harassment are made, the victim’s character is scrutinized, he or she is discredited and the perpetrators are believed. As I stated before this is a systemic issue that we are seeing across all avenues of society, including our public schools. My clients stand behind their complaint.”

Hanover High Principal Justin Campbell, who is named as a defendant in the suit, declined to comment on Tuesday.

Superintendent Jay Badams also declined to address the specifics of the lawsuit.

“The Dresden School District has established policies and procedures to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for all students,” Badams said in an email.

Both parties have asked for a jury trial. The U.S. District Court in Concord has scheduled a pretrial conference for 10 a.m. on Feb. 22.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.