WE HAVE QUESTIONS ...

EDITORIAL: More details needed about Oxford High bullying lawsuit

ANNISTON STAR EDITORIAL BOARD

A lawsuit filed earlier this month claims that an Oxford High School student became the victim of bullying after a locker room incident back in October 2018.

The Star published a sanitized version of what’s described in the lawsuit. It’s a public document, but The Star chose not to provide a copy of the lawsuit for a couple of reasons: One, the details are ... shall we say ... sordid; and two, the victim is identified only as John Doe in the lawsuit while the students he accuses are named.

In essence, the plaintiff claims that he and the two accused students were in the field house showering after a morning workout during school. 

John Doe claims that, at some point, one of the students placed his personal bodily fluids in a bottle of Powerade. After spotting the bottle, John Doe asked who it belonged to, and a couple of students warned him not to drink it. One student, however, told him it was OK. John Doe then drank the entirety of the contents, not knowing it had been soiled.

The students present in the locker room began to laugh, and word of the incident spread quickly throughout the school, according to the lawsuit, leading to “homophobic slurs, sexually explicit insults” that continued throughout the school year. 

John Doe transferred to a private school before the following school year.

Without more detail, the lawsuit raises several questions:

The lawsuit accuses baseball coach Wes Brooks of not protecting John Doe from harassment and assault by the two student defendants, but the only act at issue committed in Brooks’ supposed absence was John Doe choosing to drink from a bottle without knowing the owner of the bottle or its contents. Why would Brooks be responsible for that?

Why are the accused students, including one who’s underage, named in the lawsuit while the accuser, who’s also underage, remains anonymous?

Why wait a full year before filing a lawsuit?

Assault with bodily fluids is a crime under Alabama law. Why not file criminal charges against the perpetrator?

The plaintiff admits that no one forced him to drink from the bottle, that he did it on his own. Why would someone else be at fault for a voluntary action that you took?

What action was taken by school officials at the time of the incident?

Facebook commenters, many of them appearing to be former Oxford High students or parents of students, have laid blame solely on John Doe for his voluntary actions, while others have blamed Coach Brooks and other school officials for a lack of control.

“Shame on those who are saying derogatory things about the student.. If he was stealing let the law handle it.. That doesn't justify what allegedly happened...stop it!!!” one commenter said in defense of John Doe.

“There’s way too much ‘lack of oversight’ there,” said another.

“If you want to place blame put it on the parents not a coach. Home life and parenting is the more important neglect here,” one commenter said in defense of school personnel.

“All yall blaming a coach or teacher, why not put the blame where it belongs on the parents!!!! Yall acting like it's the schools job to show these kids how to act and it's not. No parenting is the problem. I promise you I’ve known the Brooks family for over 30 years, 2 super great guys.”

School officials, including Brooks, have not commented on the case, which is not uncommon with active lawsuits.

This case has no winners. Each of the students involved should have thought twice before acting on their impulses. But is this something that should have ended up in court? We believe everyone should withhold judgment until we know more about how the accused parties respond to the accusations.

 

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