Parents sue over treatment of daughter at Sumner Co. school - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Parents sue over treatment of daughter at Sumner Co. school

Posted: Updated: June 4, 2014 07:11 PM
HENDERSONVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A family is taking their school district to court, saying that bullying went ignored and unpunished. The parents of a Hendersonville High School student said they had no choice but to sue and that a coach deserves a lot of the blame.

Arnett and Sherry Hayes, the parents of a 14-year-old honor student and star basketball player, said what happened to their daughter shouldn't happen to anyone.

"It was too hostile for her to continue her learning," Sherry Hayes said.

The Hayes family have filed a lawsuit in Sumner County circuit court in Gallatin against the school district, alleging the teen was the victim of ongoing racially motivated harassment and bullying at the hands of several upperclassmen on the Hendersonville girls basketball team.

"Never once was it taken to the administrators like it's supposed to be. There is a protocol," Sherry Hayes said.

Sherry Hayes said she took her daughter's concerns to the head coach, Amy Wilhite, who had a team intervention meeting, but the mother says Wilhite never reported it to the principal or the athletic director.

"Once we reported it again, we went to the principal and let her know, and also the athletic director. And they had no idea what we were talking about. They had not heard it from the coach," Sherry Hayes said.

The parents then filed a report with the Sumner County School District back in February.

It's been months, and they still don't know if the investigation has been complete.

Sherry Hayes said she has had several email communications with Katie Brown, who works with the district's Safe Schools, Healthy Students office.

"I received another one in mid-March, and that's the last time I've heard from her," Sherry Hayes said.

The 14-year-old is considered one of the best young basketball players in the country, having received interest and recruitment letters starting when she was an eighth-grader.

"She's received letters from Vanderbilt, Miami, LSU, Ole Miss, Missouri and many others," Sherry Hayes said.

There was a rumor that the freshman had quit the team, but as part of the lawsuit, there is an email from the head coach dismissing her on the day of the final regular season game. The email states, in part, that she could try out for the team in the spring.

"She was one of her starting five on the team. She led in scoring. There was no reason for her to be dismissed from this team," Sherry Hayes said.

The 14-year-old girl started therapy to deal with the bullying, and it was recommended by her therapist that she transfer from Hendersonville High School.

She will finish the year at another Sumner County school.

"It's time these coaches, teachers and administrators be held accountable for not doing what they are supposed to be doing when they took a oath to protect these students. All of the administrators in this situation failed my daughter," Sherry Hayes said.

School board attorney Todd Presnell said the district only recently received a copy of the complaint filed in court, but the district is aware of the family's allegations.

"As with all complaints about students and personnel, we take these allegations very seriously. The school system is following its policies in response to the family's complaints and will be responding in court at the appropriate time. We look forward to explaining the school's response and refuting these assertions," Presnell said.

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