Franklin family sues district, claims staff didn’t stop bullying

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FRANKLIN, Ind. – A local family is accusing Franklin Community Schools of turning a blind eye to bullying, harassment and physical attacks. The family says their teenager, who has autism and ADHD, even committed multiple suicide attempts because of bullying in school and on school buses.

In mid-May, the teen, listed as R.N. in court documents, and her mother, R.T., filed a lawsuit against the district for failing to stop bullying and to protect the student.

FOX59's Beairshelle Edmé dug deeper into the lawsuit to learn more.

Case files detail R.N.'s claims of bullying including students saying, "you should die"; "dig a hole and bury yourself"; and "die of cancer."

"In the case of my client, the school knew this was happening, so it's not a situation where the school can claim, 'Oh, we didn't know. No one ever told us. Mom or dad never complained,'" said the family's attorney, Tom Blessing. "That's simply not true."

The case files also list various attempts, including multiple emails from R.N.'s parents, to address their child's allegations of bullying.

According to the Fishers lawyer, one email to administrators said R.N. "seems to have become a target this year more than any other school year." In another parents wrote, "You have a bullying problem at your school."

The family says in 2017, the teen wrote a suicide note, which parents say they showed to R.N.'s teacher who responded, "classic R.N. overreaction."

But the family's attorney says it wasn't.

"There were multiple suicide attempts. The anxiety or her real fear of going to school on a daily basis led to chronic depression, and she got to the point where she didn't even want to go to school anymore," Blessings explained. "She felt the only way to deal with it was to take her own life, sadly"

The family says R.N. tried to overdose on pills.

Two weeks later when parents met with R.N.'s principal, they claim he said, "You don't understand the definition of bullying."

"Well that's the problem— the school didn't really deal with the bullying," the family's attorney told FOX59.

The student later moved to cutting, according to the lawsuit.

A district survey this January, which is cited in this case, found 42 percent of Franklin Community School students from 7th to 12th grade considered suicide; 75 percent worry about mental health.

The school board president later said in a local paper, "It's a huge unmet need."

"Unfortunately, this is just—I hate to say it, but a really common or typical example of how public school districts don't take bullying seriously," Blessing said.

FOX59 called and emailed Franklin Community School administrators. The district's attorney told Edmé they are reviewing the case and currently have no comment.

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