A Texas school has come under fire after a black 12-year-old girl came home from an overnight school campout with a rope burn around her neck.
The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that Sandy Rougely, of Waco, has retained a lawyer to press a personal injury claim against Live Oak Classical School, a private school where her daughter is enrolled.
Rougely told the paper her daughter returned from the April 28 campout with the injury to the front half of her neck and now wonders whether her daughter was victimized by racially motivated bullying by sixth-grade classmates.
"It looked like somebody had ripped her neck apart and stitched it back together," she said.
Jeremy Counseller, a school trustee, told the Morning News in a statement the girl was accidentally injured by a rope swing. Counseller accused Rougley’s attorney, Levi McCathern, 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.
Counsellor said Rougely and 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."
According to the Morning News, Rougely has removed her daughter from the school and Jones arranged so that her daughter can finish out the rest of the year from home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.