The family of a sixth grade girl identified in court papers as K.P. is suing Waco’s Live Oak Classical School over an incident that took place on a school field trip which left her with severe rope burns around her neck. The suit alleges that her classmates wrapped the rope of a swing around her throat when her back was turned, but the school is telling a different story.
K.P., who is black, was on a partial scholarship at Live Oak, whose student body is made up of predominantly white students. She says she was bullied both verbally and physically, including being pushed to the ground behind a teacher’s back. The New York Times reports that at an end of the school year trip, she believes she was attacked:
The lawsuit said the episode occurred at a swing: a disc-shape basket hanging from a tree with a separate rope that the children pulled to lift the swing higher. The girl said she had been pulling on the rope but then became tired and stood to the side. She then felt the rope around her neck, and she was “violently jerked” to the ground.
In an interview with the Dallas News, she says no one helped her to her feet. Her chaperone eventually gave her Motrin and put Vaseline on the wound, but when she returned home her mother took her to the hospital where she was treated for severe burns. Her mother said, “It looked like somebody had ripped her neck apart and stitched it back together.”
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The school, meanwhile, maintains that the whole thing was a complete accident:
“Mr. Deaconson, the school’s lawyer, said he had investigated what happened and gave this account: As many as a dozen children were pulling on the rope to give the swing height, and when they let go, the rope whipped past the girl, hit her in the neck and left her with a rope burn.
Yes, they’re saying a rope accidentally happened to wrap completely around a black girl’s neck in her predominantly white school where she is frequently bullied because of her race like a noose.”
Though this malevolent swing is the cause of all the troubles at Live Oak Classical School rather than deeply embedded racism, it hasn’t been taken down:
Lawrence L. Germer, the owner of the property where the students went on the trip and a defendant in the suit, said, “From any perspective, it’s sad because the little girl got hurt.” But he added that her injuries were the result of “terrible, bad luck” and that the lawsuit misrepresented what had happened.
The lawsuit claims that because none of the boys, or other children, helped K.P. off the ground the incident was not accidental. The family also claims Allison Buras, the school’s dean, did not look into the incident, nor did she notify K.P.’s mother of her daughter’s injury.
Mr. Germer, who is also a lawyer and says his daughter is a dean at the Live Oak school, said that he had hosted Boy Scouts and church groups at his property before without incident.
The swing remains in place, he said.
After the incident, K.P. withdrew from school and finished sixth grade at home.