Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Court allows additional discovery against St. Andrews

Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill ordered St. Andrews to provide to Precious and Crystal Martin information about bullying and similar discipline problems at the school.  The Martins sued the school in October.  They claimed breach of contract after they withdrew their child from the school in response to alleged bullying.  The Martins sought the information in discovery while St. Andrews objected on the ground such information was not relevant.   Judge Weill also issued a protective order to keep the names of any minor children from becoming public.

Judge Weill wrote:

the plaintiffs seek discovery concerning other complaints of "bullying" at St. Andrews.  The defendants characterize the plaintiffs' attempts to delve into the records of other students as attempts to "annoy harass, and embarrass St. Andrew's, other students, and their families." The defendants argue that information is not relevant to the Plaintiff's claims."  However, when it comes to discovery, relevance is not the standard.....

the court recognizes that the scope of discovery is broad.  Accordingly, the court will permit limited discovery concerning the subject of bullying but will enforce the plaintiffs' represented agreement concerning confidentiality and require an agreed protective order regarding the specific confidentiality provisions that heavily restricts disclosure, and permits disclosure only in a designated way....

Judge Weill limited discovery to two years preceding the incidents at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

Synopsis of case: 

Precious and Crystal Martin filed a lawsuit against the school, Headmaster George Penick, and then-lower school headmaster Leanna Owens, in October in Hinds County Circuit Court. Mrs. Martin is the daughter of Senior Hinds County Chancellor Patricia Wise. The suit also names Headmaster George Penick and Head of the Lower School Leanna Owens as defendants as well. Attorney James Bobo represents the Martins. 

The Martins enrolled their three children in St. Andrews on January 13, 2013. The children were in the sixth, fourth, and second grades. They claimed they paid a minimum of $39,595 in tuition and fees to St. Andrews. The Martins claim another fourth grader subjected their child to "verbal and physical abuse". They state they notified the school about the problem as "early as August 27." The other child's parents complained to the school that Young Martin had then allegedly placed an "inappropriate comment" on the other child's Instagram page. (Don't know why a fourth grader has an Instagram page but I digress.) The school allegedly told the Martins no action would be taken about the Instagram caper as the event took place outside of the school. The complaint does not state whether the child was in the Klan.*

The Martins state their fourth grade son claimed the other child "stomped and kicked him as well as called him names." They allege he told the teacher about the incident but nothing was done. Mr. Martin then filed an affidavit for assault against the fourth-grader in Hinds County Justice Court. They claimed the other child harassed their kid and "called him rude names" at school a few days later.

The Martins met again with the administration. They allege Headmaster Penick said if they did not withdraw the affidavit, the school would dismiss their son. He repeated the statement in an email sent to the Martins (p.31 below). Mr. Penick stated in the September 10 email the charges were filed without "allowing the school time to address the situation." (They were filed the day after the incident.) He also asked for their promise to work with St. Andrews and its "procedures" before using the criminal justice system. The affidavit was withdrawn.

The Martins allege various claims such as breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith, tort of outrage, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, conspiracy, and tortious interference with contract. The Martins asked for actual and punitive damages. The two sides are currently engaged in discovery. They have since withdrawn their children from St. Andrews. The Martins claimed they suffered $2 million in emotional distress and are seeking damages.

Related posts:
St. Andrews returns fire
St. Andrews asks court to stop Martins from fishing
 Precious Martin sues St. Andrew's and filed charges against fourth-grader


Anonymous said...

I am disappointed. Weill is usually very sensible.

Anonymous said...

The Klan comment seems more than a little excessive as do the damages.

Is the Klan comment part of the legal filing?

Frankly, I cannot understand why a private school can't deal with bullying and other behavior problems like theft and emotional problems.

They can expel and suspend students with ease and require professional counseling for the student as a condition for re-admittance.

They can institute zero tolerance when it comes to cyber bullying as well. Committing crimes outside the school don't have to be tolerated.

The reason they don't enforce or strengthen their contract with the parents and student is that too often the bully's parents are felt to be important either financially to the school or to have social clout.

And, once they have made exceptions for the children of VIPs, it's more difficult to enforce the behavior code for non VIPs as well.

While my children were in private school, including this one, there were students who for whom CPS should have been called , children whose stealing from fellow students was blatant and chronic, and students who were obviously either severely depressed or abusing drugs.

Nodding off in class, dilated pupils, the reek of marijuana, or a change in energy levels and grades ought to be hints.

As educators, these folks should have been trained to recognize behaviors or physical injuries that are " cries for help". It is a certainty that they were if the teachers have to meet state education requirements. And, familiarity with mandatory reporting law is required as well.

I'm glad this case is going forward. I hope the Martins present evidence about how first rate private schools enforce behavior codes and address behavior problems.

Too many of my children's former troubled classmates are either dead or living troubled lives and they could have been helped.

Our expectations are too low now and we've accepted too many invalid excuses as valid.

Anonymous said...

I agree, 7:38.

Anonymous said...

7:38, Weill is still 'very sensible'. It appears in this case he still is. While I wish that he could appropriately tell Prescious that he can take his attempt to scam StA's and put it up his very big Prescious a$$, Weill is doing nothing but providing a ruling in accordance with the statute - which is what a good Judge, a 'very sensible' Judge should do.

Anonymous said...

The Klan comment seems more than a little excessive as do the damages.

Is the Klan comment part of the legal filing?

You are so damn behind.

Jackson Jambalaya: A website of news, commentary, culture, & jackassery for the Jackson, Mississippi area.

Jackassery. So get out there, dig through the archives and figure out what the Klan reference is all about as it relates to Precious Martin.

Johnny Weir said...

OH! This is how lawyers make their money. They sue everyone, even 4th grade kids. If I was St. Andrews I would fight this all the way to the State Supreme Court. Than I turn around and sue the Martins for the court & lawyers cost defending this case. What the heck is "The complaint does not state whether the child was in the Klan". CRAP...The Justice Systems both State & Federal are a JOKE. You won't find justice in a courtroom.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't be disappointed with Weill. It's clear he sees the case for what it is and, unless plaintiffs can come up with something more,summary judgment for SA is likely:

"In the Court's opinion, these two incidents as described in the Amended Complaint, when viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs and in considering the Plaintiffs' representations concerning the school's acknowledgement of alleged 'provocation' as true, only narrowly present an arguable pattern of 'repeated' actions."

Doing exactly what he should: giving plaintiffs every opportunity to substantiate their flimsy claims before showing them the door.

Anonymous said...

Let's admit it ,, RACE is the underlying issue. Martin is using it as extra leverage.

If all parties were white or if all parties were black, this issue would be settled quickly by the school.

Race permeates our society at many levels.

Anonymous said...

So ironic given that Jackson's biggest bully is Precious Martin.

Anonymous said...

The thought that Leanna Owens, the black principal being sued, would ignore bullying of a black child is ludicrous.

It is clear Precious us prying into other kids' problems to try to gin up a class action suit since his case is so lacking in merit.

And 8:05 - please go through the archives here, and leave your own dated personal history out of this. The actions of SA to prevent bullying and other bad behavior is pretty well documented, and you can dig it up and read it for yourself; I'm not doing your homework for you.

Anonymous said...

Nobody is trying to gin up a class action. There are no class actions in Mississippi state court, which is where this case is filed.

I assume St. Andrew's has insurance coverage that has kicked in on this lawsuit, so it is not their decision alone whether to settle or not settle. The insurance company controls that decision as a practical matter.

Really, I don't think this lawsuit is about race or money at all. These are pissed off parents who want to cause some discomfort for a school they believe has wronged their child. When the pissed off parents happen to be lawyers, this is what happens. And it is a winning strategy whether they win the lawsuit or not. The Martins are getting their pound of flesh through the publicity and the discomfort I'm sure the defendants are feeling as a result of being sued and having to go through the litigation process.

The best news for St. Andrew's is that they cut ties with this family and will never have to deal with them again. I wonder if JA is watching this and treating these people with kid gloves?

Anonymous said...

Why are they attending JA if white people are so God awful?

Anonymous said...

10:21 am sometimes the line between jackassery and those who are just serious jackasses is blurry.

Anonymous said...

3:44 As a SA parent, I can assure you, bullying does occur in the lower school and the administrations handling of bullying is ineffective. It's not rampant or widespread but when it does happen, it's not handled very well.

Anonymous said...

Who's bullying who here?
This is clearly about race and money and settling of the racial scorecard.
Sadly, the Martin's are a fine example of bad parenting. This kid and his siblings will grow up thinking they are above the law because their parents will jump at anyone for looking at them the wrong way.
Good luck JA, sorry but it's only a matter of time before your day in court is coming.
Maybe the Martin kids should be home schooled if they are incapable of facing the world of hard knocks in order to grow up like any other kid who's parents do not use the courtroom to settle their battles for them.
Not so long ago this would have been hashed out in the playground not a courtroom.
I am disgusted at this parenting philosophy and I'm disgusted at the Martin's hypocrisy given their history(not exactly squeaky clean!!)
Well done for bringing your family up in the faith to follow in your footsteps of hatred and anger.
Using your law degrees to get rich, get even or embarrass anyone who looks at you the wrong way is a waste of time and money for everyone.
Wish you would get a life....looks like you are trying to bully St. Andrew's to me

Anonymous said...

Remember, in Precious' world any white that opposes him is a Klukker.

Anonymous said...

JA did not have to accept the Martin children.
I expect they have a great deal more information about what happened at St As than the commenters here.
I doubt most of you who are weighing in have ever darkened the door of a private school, but it's a chance to bash " Precious".
This is not the first incidence of rather serious bullying at St As.

Anonymous said...

I doubt you possess a clue 8:57 AM.

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