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One plaintiff drops out of ECPS suit

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Monday, April 22, 2019

One of the two plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in 2016 against the Edgecombe County Board of Education in the wake of a field trip allegedly involving sex, drugs and alcohol has dismissed her claims.

Kimberly Briggs, who dismissed her claims in the lawsuit at the end of March, was teaching in Edgecombe County Public Schools at G.W. Carver Elementary School when she sued the school district in 2016. Briggs is now reportedly teaching in another school district.

She filed the lawsuit with her daughter, who is only identified as L.B., who was a student at SouthWest Edgecombe High School at the time of the alleged incident. 

The original draft of the lawsuit stated that the mother and daughter filed the complaint against the defendants for their “discriminatory, retaliatory and defamatory conduct against the plaintiffs following a completely foreseeable and preventable incident that occurred on a school-sponsored field trip.”

The alleged incident occurred on May 12, 2016, during a four-day field trip to Washington, D.C., involving 36 members of the SouthWest Edgecombe High School History Club.

In the lawsuit, L.G. alleges she was sexually assaulted in a hotel room by three male students, who had been drinking and smoking marijuana. The plaintiff said she pleaded with the boys to stop, but they continued. In later legal documents, the incident is described as a rape. One of the boys allegedly recorded the incident on video and later posted it on Snapchat.

L.B. also states in the suit that school officials accused her of sexual harassment and suspended her for 10 days while the male participants in the alleged sexual assault were not punished. The school also took away several honors, including the chance to serve as junior marshal, the opportunity to attend the governor’s school and her membership in several elite clubs and organizations, she claims.

The original 37-page lawsuit filed in December 2016 alleged the school district violated Title IX and other constitutional rights and the N.C. Whistleblower Act. It also alleged negligence, infliction of emotional distress, defamation and libel related to the field-trip incident, the investigation of the incident and the disciplinary decisions of the school district after the incident remain known.

The plaintiffs originally sought at least $10,000 for each of 12 counts, totaling a minimum of $120,000 in redress from the Edgecombe County school board, then-Superintendent John Farrelly, Assistant Superintendent and Title IX Coordinator Marc Whichard, SouthWest Edgecombe Principal Craig Harris, Assistant Principal Billy Strother, a school counselor and four Edgecombe County Public Schools teachers who attended the field trip in the role of chaperones. They later tried to file suit against G.W. Carver Elementary School Principal Shannon Castillo, but that claim was ultimately dismissed by the courts.

Deborah Stagner, attorney for Edgecombe County Public Schools, said she cannot comment on the status of the lawsuit.

“Because the remaining claims of L.B. are ongoing, I cannot comment further about the litigation at this time,” Stagner said.

She said at the time of the initial filing that the school district could neither confirm nor deny the reported acts of discipline, citing federal and state privacy laws. Stagner also said the lawsuit should not affect Edgecombe County Public School’s Title IX federal funding.

“The lawsuit has been filed by a private citizen,” Stagner said in an interview in 2016. “The board is not aware of any investigation or any allegation of wrongdoing by the U.S. Department of Education or any other federal agency responsible for enforcing Title IX. We have no reason to believe that this lawsuit will have any impact on federal funding for Edgecome County Public Schools.”

Since the original lawsuit was filed, motions have flown back and forth between all parties and some of the claims have been dismissed. However, the lawsuit now stands with only one plaintiff and only some of those claims remaining.

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