Four Oregon teens sue school district and principal for failing to control bullying and sextortion
Four former Oregon middle school students who say they were bullied, harassed, and assaulted by other students filed a federal lawsuit against the school district and the school principal and are seeking millions of dollars in damages.
The lawsuit, originally filed in October by three students, was amended last week to include a fourth student and to increase the damages sought from at least five million to ten million dollars.
According to the complaint, the Clatskanie School District #6j, which has jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ former school, Clatskanie Middle/High School, and its then-principal, Jeff Baughman, are alleged to have had a “cavalier attitude” toward bullying, and failed to take steps to remedy repeated complaints received by Baughman and other school officials from the plaintiffs. Clatskanie is a small city approximately 50 miles north of Portland.
The bullying allegations include sexual harassment, assault, and what is known as “sextortion” – blackmailing students into sending nude photos that were then shared among the student body. The 47-page complaint details numerous incidents between 2009 and 2012 in which the four teens—all female, and as young as 12 at the time–say they were victimized.
All of the plaintiffs allege that student Jerrus Lumijarvi bullied them between 2009 and 2011. The recently-added plaintiff, Hailey Walden, says Lumijarvi extorted numerous nude images from her. According to the complaint, a female student, identified only as J.G., was upset that Walden was trying to get Lumijarvi in trouble and beat her in August 2010 by smashing her head into concrete until she was unconscious. The federal complaint alleges that three special education teachers witnessed at least part of the beating and intervened at the end. A video of the assault allegedly circulated among the students at Clatskanie Middle/High School.
Plaintiff Allysun Harkleroad claims to have dated Lumijarvi briefly in November 2009 but found him “creepy.” She started to date someone else but was soon stalked and harassed by Lumijarvi. She says that the following June he extorted a number of nude photos from her.
Plaintiff Josi Harrison claims, in a separate suit, that Lumijarvi sexually assaulted her in a park on May 6, 2011. Lumijarvi, who is now 18, was charged at the time as a juvenile. The case was resolved with an admission of guilt to lesser charges of public indecency and harassment. Lumijarvi was placed on probation.
Laura Lefebrve claims that Lumijarvi grabbed her breast in July 2010. Lefebrve claims other incidents of bullying. She briefly dated a student identified as C.B., whom she says extorted a nude photo from her after they broke up and immediately shared it with others.
According to the complaint, Lefebrve also suffered assaults at school. Her lip was cut when a student threw a book at her. In March 2012 she was pushed into her locker hard enough to draw blood and bruise her back. The same month, Lefebrve had stitches in her mouth from wisdom teeth extraction. Soon after, she was hit in the face so hard at school that her stitches burst. Lefebrve’s mother had a conference call with Principal Baughman and the vice principal about the level of harassment her daughter was experiencing. Baughman allegedly responded: “These things have to be handled very carefully. We don’t want her to get it any more than she deserves.”
If the plaintiffs successfully prove liability on the part of the school district and principal, they must still prove injury in order to collect damages. The wide range of injuries described in the federal complaint includes withdrawal from school activities and depression to rape and suicide attempts.
Allysun Harkleroad claims to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and bulimia and has attempted suicide multiple times. Laura Lefebrve also attempted suicide last year. Josi Harrison was diagnosed with PTSD and had surgery to treat a stress-related heart condition. Besides the beating Hailey Walden suffered, she says she was raped in 2010 by a volunteer football coach and has been diagnosed with a heart condition of rapid and irregular heartbeats similar to Harrison’s. She says she was routinely taunted by fellow students and told to kill herself and that she started cutting herself—some of which were also suicide attempts, according to her attorney Amber Lunsford.
Although still juveniles, the young women bringing the lawsuit are permitting their names and images to be used publicly as part of their effort to stand up to their tormenters and raise awareness of bullying and sextortion. Three of them now attend school in a neighboring district. The fourth, Josi Harrison, and her family have relocated to central Oregon.
The five causes of action in the federal lawsuit include negligence, constitutional violations of equal protection, intentional infliction of emotional distress and what is known as “peer-on-peer sexual harassment.”
Principal Jeff Baughman was placed on paid administrative leave in late October. He submitted a letter of resignation on November 20, effective September 30, 2014, citing “personal reasons.” Baughman will not return as principal. The school district is expected to name a new principal.
Josi Harrison has also filed a lawsuit in Oregon state circuit court against five teens at the same school, Clatskanie Middle/High School, and their parents. That case was filed last May and alleges sextortion and sexual assault. It seeks $2.5 million in damages. The case against the five sets of parents accuses them of not doing enough to prevent continued harassment and bullying by failing to monitor their children’s social media accounts and giving them access to electronic devices.
One teen, identified in the complaint as S.A., and her parents have reached an amicable settlement with Harrison. Details of the settlement are not public. The remaining fourteen defendants in the state suit are male.
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