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Stabbing, racial slurs alleged in federal civil rights lawsuit by Colorado Springs family

October 10, 2017 Updated: October 11, 2017 at 12:49 pm
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The mother of an adolescent boy who was stabbed in the chest with a pencil by an 11-year-old classmate one year ago at Carmel Middle School has filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver.

The complaint, submitted last week, claims Harrison School District 2 violated Sherise Nipper's son's civil rights due to "injuries caused by failure to prevent ongoing physical and verbal bullying due to racial issues and disability."

The district and superintendent, board president, principal, security officer and other staff are named as defendants.

A scheduling and planning conference is set for Dec. 5.

District officials have said they do not comment on lawsuits or issues involving individual students.

But the lawsuit illustrates a new kind of legal challenge involving schools.

Accusations of educators and schools failing to take precautions against bullying is a relatively new area of litigation, said Nipper's attorney, Debbie Taussig.

"We want to bring awareness so the schools will take action and help other children," Taussig said. "A lot of this could have been prevented."

Nipper maintains that her sixth-grade son was violently attacked at school on Oct. 7, 2016, and jabbed multiple times in the chest, resulting in a punctured lung that required trauma surgery and a week of hospitalization.

She also claims he was left in a school hallway for 30 minutes until he received help.

Harrison School District 2 officials dispute that.

The attacker, then 11, and Nipper's son each say they were being bullied by the other.

The lawsuit states that Nipper's son had been bullied for a year before the altercation, starting when he was in fifth grade at Pikes Peak Elementary School, also in Harrison D-2.

Racial problems are listed as one of the causes. Nipper's son is white; the student who attacked him is Hispanic.

The complaint says Nipper's son was hit, kicked, punched, threatened and called derogatory racial slurs, such as "cracker," "white boy," "paper," "chicken nugget," "Swiss cheese" and "white trash."

He also has a physical disability that causes him to walk on his toes and his shoes to wear out quickly, which the lawsuit says also led to bullying and constitutes discrimination.

He was told by students "kill yourself," according to the lawsuit.

A public defender told a judge during a criminal hearing in 4th Judicial District Juvenile Court in May that an investigation had concluded the boy who was stabbed had been bullying his assailant.

Taussig said the school had reported that Nipper's son had been "acting out."

"I think after you've been bullied for over a year, it's not surprising you'd act out at times," she said.

The lawsuit says Nipper repeatedly reported the bullying her son was enduring, but school officials did not adequately address the issue.

The stabbing was considered a crime of violence because there was a risk of severe bodily injury or death.

In a plea agreement reached in May, the assailant was referred to a juvenile diversion program, a combination of counseling, classes, community service and restitution for out-of-pocket costs to the victim's family.

Nipper is seeking a jury trial and monetary damages in the civil case.

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