Swansea elementary school and student involved in ‘frivolous’ bullying lawsuit reach agreement

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Apr 28, 2015

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien granted a Swansea elementary school’s motions for sanctions and dismissal after the parties reached an agreement in a lawsuit alleging a student was bullied without the school taking action.

Permissa Acoff, individually and on behalf of her minor son, filed the Sept. 30 lawsuit against Scott Harres, Jeff Burkett and Wolf Branch School District 113 Board of Education.

Acoff claimed her son was picked on and called names while attending Wolf Branch Elementary during the 2013-2014 school year.  She claimed that after talking to his teachers and Principal Burkett, she was told they would monitor the situation and talk to the parents of the students responsible. However, Acoff argued that the bullying continued and no disciplinary action was taken.

Later, Acoff alleged her son was slapped in the head by one of the alleged bullies. She further alleged that another student hit him with spit balls and called him a racial slur. She said her son had been hurt, had difficulty sleeping at night and that his education suffered as a result of the bullying.

The defendants in the suit filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on Oct. 31, calling the claims “outrageous and untrue.”

“Plaintiffs’ complaint does not establish that any of the individual defendants’ alleged conduct was performed outside the course of their employment so as to remove their immunity from suit in tort and allow them to be sued in their individual capacity,” the defendants stated. “In fact, plaintiffs’ complaint admits that the individual defendants were within the scope of their employment.”

They also filed a motion for sanctions on Dec. 5, arguing that Acoff should be sanctioned for knowingly filing a “completely frivolous” complaint.

In fact, her previous attorney, Justin L. Mason of St. Louis, urged her to dismiss her claims, explaining that he did not believe the plaintiffs had a plausible cause and the sole purpose of filing the complaint was to preserve statute.

LeChien filed an order on March 31 granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss, noting that the parties reached an agreement in the matter.

Shawn M. McLain and Barney R. Mundorf of Guin Mundorf LLC in Collinsville represented the defendants.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 14-L-668

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