School District Encounters Bullying Lawsuit
Bullying at Hanover High School has taken center stage in a lawsuit in which the school district, SAU #70, and HHS Principal Justin Campbell are listed as defendants.
The civil lawsuit, known as V. v. Dresden School District et al, was filed on November 3rd in the U.S. District Court in Concord by the mother (going by the initials N.V.) of a former Hanover High School student (identified as A.V.). She claims that school officials failed to defend her son from aggressive bullying and sexual harassment during his time at the school in the 2016-2017 school year, thus failing to fulfill their obligations under federal law Title IX. According to N.V., the harassment became so bad that A.V. had to transfer to another school following the end of his freshman year at Hanover.
The Valley News was the first to report on the lawsuit. According to an article by Rob Wolfe that was published on December 5th, the plaintiff’s son was the victim of acts of bullying both in and out of school. During a summer camp (which had no ties to the school) before his freshman year, the student was reportedly harassed by three individuals who still attend Hanover High. As stated in the Valley News article, the trio “used slurs against the boy” and “allegedly wiped bodily fluids on him, hit him and engaged in sexual assault, according to the court filing.”
According to that filing, the school year brought more harassment, with at least 11 Hanover High students (who were identified by letters of the alphabet) referenced as having taken part in the bullying. The parents of A.V. claim to have asked school officials for help multiple times and to have received “slow and inadequate responses” in addition to criticism of what their son was doing.
One specific instance of bullying that was described in the article was a physical locker room fight at Hanover High School between A.V. and another boy. The article states that this fight left A.V. “bleeding and concussed.” The author of this report viewed a video while investigating the matter showing this encounter. In it, the two students can be seen wrestling and attempting the force each other into a headlock. They then pause before trying to slam each other into a metal locker. The student who fought with A.V., who remains at HHS, declined to comment on the matter after initially accepting an interview request.
HHS Principal Justin Campbell declined to discuss the lawsuit or the disciplinary records of the student involved, citing laws that required him to protect their privacy. Student Assistance Counselor Chris Seibel, when asked about the lawsuit, directed the Broadside to speak with Dresden School District Superintendent Jay Badams.
Badams confirmed in a December 8th e-mail to the Broadside that the Valley News article on the lawsuit accurately described the allegations being brought against the district. He also wrote, “I’m unable to respond to those allegations, but our attorney, Dona Feeney, is preparing a response which is due in late January. As for the duration of the case, we have no way of knowing since there are numerous procedural directions in which the matter could go.”
Badams, who only became Dresden School District superintendent this year, closed the e-mail by writing, “Even though I was not superintendent at the time these events are alleged to have taken place, it is my responsibility to help to resolve the matter by ensuring that we respond appropriately and follow our legal advice.”
In an e-mail to the Valley News, Badams also stated, “Our board, administration and staff remain dedicated to providing a healthy and nurturing learning environment.”
Karen Hewes, the lawyer representing the plaintiff in the lawsuit, declined to speak with the Broadside on the case.