Hurt Child Case Ends Before Trial

Roneka Kennedy holds her daughter, Kydra, outside the Maury County Courthouse. Photo by Clint Confehr

COLUMBIA, TN — A judge and defense attorney say a complaint against Maury County Public Schools — alleging a teacher hurt a child — was settled Monday when a trial was to start.

However, the expression on Roneka Kennedy’s face reflects sadness and implies that she’s unhappy about settlement. She sought $100,000 from the county for what happened Jan. 19, 2016 at Joseph Brown Elementary School.

No dollar amount was stated for settlement. There may never be a non-compulsory statement on what’s paid to Kennedy.

Assault and poor teacher training were alleged in public records by Kennedy through her attorney, Casey Long of Lawrenceburg. Long said Kennedy’s daughter, Kydria, now 8, was hurt when a teacher grabbed the girl’s right arm, “causing visible and painful gouges in the shape of the [teacher’s] fingernails.”

Public records state that: Kydria was pushed into a chair, causing injury to her upper chest; she cried; and fears authority figures.

Defense attorney Owen Lipscomb of Brentwood replied in court papers that Kydria was sent to the front office to be taken home because she was unruly, not because she was injured or needed medical attention. Lipscomb works with Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

Circuit Court Judge David Allen was to preside over a one-day, non-jury trial June 24, but within 30 minutes of when opening arguments were to start, lawyers were discussing settlement.

Kennedy was obviously distraught while seated in the courthouse lobby when, in the courtroom, Allen announced “One of the roles of the judge is to help settle a case.” The judge complimented both lawyers for their professionalism. “Good lawyers can reach an agreement without having to have a person in a black robe [decide.]

“This case has been settled,” Allen said just before 10 a.m. An agreement is “better” than having a trial.

A few hours later the defense attorney was asked: Is the case “finally” settled?

“Yes,” Lipscomb replied. “The bottom line is … based on everything … that the case is resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. That’s really about all I can tell you.”

He was also asked if there’s a deadline to submit an agreed order for the judge’s signature and placement in the case file to formally state in a public document that the case was settled. He declined to reply.

Long made no a statement about the case, but publicly advised Kennedy against commenting. It was clear from her demeanor — holding Kydria close — that she’s as supportive of her daughter as possible. Her right cheek was wet with tears.

Named as a defendant with the school system was Amy Victoria Scott, now Amy Bryson. For the county, Lipscomb wrote that she was asked by another teacher to assist with an unruly and disruptive student. Lipscomb sought to have the complaint against Bryson dismissed, explaining the employer is the proper defendant.

Lipscomb’s written reply to Kennedy’s complaint claims government is protected against this kind of lawsuit, but the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service explains protection may not exist in claims arising from negligence by county employees. That and other aspects of the legal issue weren’t debated in open court for this case.

Hired in 1999, the teacher was suspended Oct. 27-Nov. 1, 2016 by Schools Director Chris Marczak as a “result of physical contact made with a student” at Brown Elementary School, public records state.

Roneka Kennedy holds her daughter, Kydra, outside the Maury County Courthouse. Photo by Clint Confehr
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