By Clint Confehr
COLUMBIA, TN — Accused of “assault” on a five-year-old and poor teacher training, Maury County Public Schools is to defend itself June 24 in Circuit Court against a $100,000 complaint, according to public records.
Roneka Kennedy alleges that on Jan. 19, 2016 her daughter was injured at Joseph Brown Elementary School where a teacher grabbed the girl’s right arm, “causing visible and painful gouges in the shape of the [teacher’s] fingernails,” according to the complaint filed by Kennedy’s attorney, Casey Adam Long of Lawrenceburg.
The child’s chest and legs were also bruised, according to the complaint. Interaction between the child and school staff is acknowledged by the school system. According to replies filed by defense attorney Owen R. Lipscomb, the child was sent to the front office to be taken home because she was unruly, not because she was injured or needed medical attention.
Kennedy, Long says for her in public records, was called to the school to pick-up her daughter “for the day due to such injuries” and the girl was treated at Maury Regional Medical Center. Kennedy wants compensation for medical costs, pain, suffering, mental anguish and alleges negligence by MCPS for failing to properly train and/or supervise the teacher.
Lipscomb works at the Brentwood-based law firm of Julie Bhattacharya Peak which was retained by Liberty Mutual Group Inc. A spokesman for Liberty Mutual replied to calls for comment saying the company doesn’t comment on litigation. Phone calls and emails to Long were unsuccessful. Attempts to reach Kennedy were unsuccessful. MCPS called the teacher saying she could be present when public records were to be reviewed. MCPS Chief of Staff Amanda Alexander said she received no reply from the teacher.
Witnesses subpoenaed to testify for the defense include Columbia residents Anthony Green, Elizabeth Chapman and Patricia Morris, and Susan Ottavi of Thompson Station.
Named as a defendant by Long is Amy Victoria Scott, now Amy Bryson who, according to Lipscomb’s reply for MCPS, was asked by another teacher to assist with an unruly and disruptive student. MCPS has asked that allegations against Bryson be dismissed, explaining she is not a proper party to the case because of immunity under a law that would direct liability to her employer.
A proposed agreed order is in the case file. It’s an attempt to separate the teacher from the lawsuit. When inspected, no signature was found on the draft of an agreed order as proposed by Lipscomb.
MCPS claims it’s covered by Tennessee’s Tort Liability Act, which limits what might be paid if Kennedy’s complaint succeeds. That law disallows payment for mental anguish, Lipscomb states for MCPS.
Hired in 1999 as a pre-school special education teacher, the teacher was notified by MCPS Director Chris Marczak on Oct. 26, 2016 that she’d be suspended Oct. 27-Nov. 1, 2016 as a “result of physical contact made with a student at Brown Elementary” school, public records state. The records state Tina Weatherford was the supervisor who, on March 11, 2016, reprimanded the teacher based on an eyewitness report of a weight bearing grip on a student while pushing a child into a chair, causing a hit to the upper chest and the child’s crying.
Long states for Kennedy that the child has become afraid of educators and authority figures.
Circuit Court Judge David L. Allen is scheduled to preside over a one-day, non-jury trial in Maury County’s courthouse.