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Lansing, Kansas, Schools Sued After Seventh Grader Alleges Assault, Racial Discrimination

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Lansing Middle School sued after a child's alleged sexual assault improperly handled by school officials.

A black middle school student, who reported a sexual and physical assault, is at the center of a federal lawsuit claiming Lansing Middle School officials failed to deal with the issue properly because of his race. 

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, stems from a February 6 incident when the Lansing Middle School student was allegedly verbally and physically attacked by another student — who, the lawsuit points out, is white.

The alleged assault began in a classroom, and continued on the bus. After the bus driver failed to intervene, the lawsuit says that the student began to defend himself.

After his mother called Principal Kerry Brungardt and Assistant Principal Brooks Jenkins, the suit says Brungardt defended the alleged perpetrator for merely "hugging" the other student before the fight broke out, citing bus surveillance footage they reportedly wouldn't let the mother view.

To the contrary, the lawsuit says the student perpetrator grabbed the victim's penis, struck him "roughly a dozen times," and gave him a bloody nose. Brungardt allegedly suspended the student who was assaulted, taking no punitive action against the perpetrator.

After the mother was cleared to see the video footage six days later, Brungardt and Jenkins went back on their previous assessment and said the other student was the aggressor in the fight.

But, the suit claims, after that, they bullied the victim, suspended him again, and blamed him during questioning, asking, "What could you have done to prevent the incidents of February 6 from happening?" and, "Wasn't Student Perpetrator simply being annoying and not hitting your head hard?" 

The lawsuit says the victim suffered headaches for a week after the incident, as well as fear and emotional distress.

More broadly, it accuses Brungardt and Jenkins of "racial animus . . . directed towards African-American students," and the school district of having a policy at the school "permitting racially disparate treatment by employees upon students."

In a statement Monday, district spokesperson Nineveh Carvan told KCUR Lansing School District 469 was unable to comment on pending litigation. 

The plaintiff seeks an unspecified award for compensatory and punitive damages.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @_tudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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