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Woman sues Hernando schools, says son was attacked on bus

BROOKSVILLE — The mother of a Hernando middle school student filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that her mentally disabled son was attacked on a school bus two years ago.

Court documents made available Tuesday claim that three or more students slapped, hit and threw items at the boy as he rode home on Bus 109 the afternoon of April 19, 2006.

The lawsuit also suggests that the boy was attacked several months previously and that the school district failed to take action.

School district officials refused to comment on the pending litigation.

The boy, then 13, attended the special education program at West Hernando Middle School and suffers from autism and Asperger's syndrome, developmental disorders that result in social and communication deficiencies.

Tracy Hipp, the boy's mother, states in court documents that her son suffered minor physical injuries and serious mental injuries requiring medical and psychiatric care. She declined to elaborate when reached by phone.

In the lawsuit, Hipp claims that the Hernando County School Board and superintendent Wayne Alexander, who are responsible for the bus driver, neglected to protect her son and to control the other students. It does not name the three students as parties in the lawsuit.

The School Board "was negligent and irresponsible and showed a careless disregard for the safety of the plaintiff," wrote Hipp's attorney, Joshua Burnett of Tampa.

Burnett seeks financial damages up to $10-million but that amount is unlikely. State law caps claims against governmental entities at $100,000 unless the Legislature approves a larger amount in a separate claims bill.

The lawsuit also asks the court to force the release of any records related to the incident.

The school district provided the boy's file to his mother but refused to produce any documents related to the attack or previous incidents.

Burnett is particularly interested in a copy of a videotape from the bus' surveillance camera. The court documents indicate that one likely exists but the school district won't release it.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Woman sues Hernando schools, says son was attacked on bus 06/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:09pm]

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