Concord-Carlisle school officials filed a sweeping denial in federal court last week of the charges leveled against them by a former student who alleged in a civil rights lawsuit that the district did nothing to protect her from vicious bullying during her junior and senior years of high school.
“They did everything they could,” said the school district’s lawyer, Leonard H. Kesten. “We’ve always said that, and there’s nothing different in this answer.”
Isabella “Belle” Hankey, now 18, states in her $2 million lawsuit, filed last month, that she endured vandalism to her car and death threats scrawled on schools walls, and that Concord-Carlisle High School administrators did nothing to find the culprit or culprits, and instead destroyed evidence.
Named as defendants in the suit are the towns of Concord and Carlisle, the Concord-Carlisle school district, and in their official and individual capacities Superintendent Diana Rigby, high school principal Peter Badalament, and former vice principal Alan Weinstein.
“Obviously, the school district isn’t going to admit to what was done, that’s the anticipated response,” said Hankey’s lawyer, Timothy M. Burke. “But we’ll look forward to having the case presented in federal court.”
In the suit, Hankey states that the bullying started in October 2011, when someone keyed her car in the school parking lot, and escalated to include having feces smeared on her car, vulgar insults carved into her car, and eventually death threats.
Hankey states that despite her pleas for help, administrators failed to properly investigate the alleged incidents. In one instance, after a sexual slur was allegedly carved into Hankey’s car, Weinstein told her “I don’t know what you want me to do,” and later offered to remove the slur with a blowtorch, according to her lawsuit.
Badalament and Rigby, she states, often ignored correspondence from her parents about the alleged bullying, and Badalament attempted to scrub an apparent threat from a school wall before it could be photographed by police, who documented each reported instance of graffiti.
The lawsuit also states that when Weinstein retired in June 2012, he “deliberately” destroyed all of his records of the investigation.
Rigby and Badalament spoke publicly last month to deny the allegations, saying they did everything possible, including offering Hankey a monitored parking spot and assigning staff to watch her in school, to keep her safe.
In the district’s answer to the lawsuit, Kesten said, school officials deny the allegations that they did not do enough, and he said they “always made every effort to respond to anyone in the plaintiff’s family.”
The district’s response also denies that the incident involving Weinstein and the blowtorch took place.
“It didn’t happen that way,” Kesten said in an interview last week. He said his clients are searching their minds to recall conversations they had with the family, but allegations that administrators handled Hankey’s complaints of bullying in a cavalier manner were untrue.
Weinstein may have said something about a blowtorch, Kesten said, but if he did it was solicitous, not dismissive.
“There’s nothing flip. Nobody ever said anything flip to her,” he said. “Nobody was making wisecracks.”
The filing flatly denies that Weinstein deliberately destroyed evidence, calling the allegation “wholly without merit.”
Kesten said that at the next scheduling conference with the judge, he plans to ask for permission to file a motion to have the case thrown out before trial.