Victim’s parents sue over school bus assault

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The assault of freshman football players on a Glacier High School bus is once again in the spotlight.

Parents of one of the victims have filed a lawsuit in Lake County District Court alleging 11 counts of various forms of negligence as well as loss of consortium, emotional and mental distress and punitive damages connected to the Sept. 12, 2011, incident.

The assaults occurred as the bus was traveling through Lake County.

On that date, players pulled several teammates to the back of the bus as it returned from a game in Missoula. They “dogpiled” the players, covering their mouths and warning them things would be worse if they fought, with at least one of them attempting to put a finger inside some of them through their pants or punching them in the genitals.

According to the mother of the victim, the school’s response to the incident was not in the best interest of anyone. The lawsuit is intended to put pressure on school administrators to ensure such cases are not handled the same way.

“It’s not about the money,” she said. “It’s for changing policy. Hopefully things will change.”

That’s not to say that they aren’t seeking payment from the school district and other defendants as reimbursement for the effects of the incident on the family. One of the effects was that the family moved from the Flathead Valley to another area in the state.

The lawsuit requests damages be paid connected to the family’s “alteration of course of life” as well as emotional and mental distress, medical bills, attorney and court fees, pain and suffering and any other damages recognized under state law.

Defendants include the Kalispell school board, Superintendent Darlene Schottle, Principal Callie Langohr, coaches Ross Darner and Mike Goicochea and bus driver Wendy Meyers. Freshmen Logan Jones, Charles Calobeer and Truman Pisk and a fourth boy alleged to have taken part in the assault are additional defendants.

Jones, Calobeer and Pisk were charged in Flathead Youth Court with misdemeanor assault.

Jones, who was briefly expelled from Glacier and then transferred to another school for the remainder of the school year, admitted guilt to his charge on Nov. 23, 2011.

He was sentenced to six months of probation on Jan. 13. Pisk admitted guilt on Feb. 23 to a reduced charge of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Calobeer’s trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

The lawsuit alleges the school and its representatives were negligent in failing to properly supervise students on the bus, supervise school staff, safely transport the victim, protect the victim from harm, enforce Glacier High’s bullying policy and prevent retaliation against the victim.

It also alleges the victim’s parents “have lost the son they knew as well as his affection” as a result of the incident, and that all of them suffered severe emotional and mental distress.

Schottle confirmed that defendants had been served with the lawsuit, but she would not comment on the case.

“Because we are in active litigation, we can’t respond to allegations except through our attorney,” she said.

Schottle said she did expect some sort of public statement would be made after a meeting between their attorneys and the plaintiffs’ attorneys next week.

Schottle also confirmed this is one of two lawsuits that recently have been filed in connection with the assault.

Another victim’s mother has had her own, smaller argument with the school recently.

Although Jones is barred by his sentence from having any contact with the victims, he is allowed to be at Glacier High School to use the weight room, which he reportedly has used on at least two recent occasions. The second victim — who still attends the school — also uses the weight room for training related to his own extracurricular activities.

His mother recently contacted Langohr to complain about the situation, saying her son could not be there because Jones was.

The underlying issue is whether or not proximity has anything to do with contact.

Jones’ former probation officer, Nick Nyman, said the issue is one that should be handled by the school.

“The context needs to be considered,” Nyman said. “They may be in the same school doing the same activity, and [Jones] is not allowed to initiate anything, but that’s an issue the school is aware of and something the school would address.”

From the school’s perspective, the two are unconnected. Schottle said that just because Jones is barred from having contact with any of the victims, “that does not mean they cannot attend the same events or be in some kind of proximity.”

That is roughly the same response the victim’s mother received from Langohr, who responded to her email by saying Jones was allowed to be there.

“He’s allowed to do anything he pleases, basically,” the mother said of Langohr’s response.

Reporter Jesse Davis may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at jdavis@dailyinterlake.com.

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