Thursday, April 19, 2018
Education

Parents sue over fight at Freedom High School

TAMPA — Freedom High School should have protected student Cody Johnson against a fellow student who argued with him over some dropped papers.

Instead, the fellow student punched Johnson in the face, according to a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

The suit, filed by Johnson and his parents against the Hillsborough County School District, asks for unspecified damages, including payment of Johnson's medical bills.

The district does not comment on pending lawsuits, said spokesman Stephen Hegarty.

According to the Jan. 28 complaint, Johnson, a linebacker on the football team, was watching a movie in class on Jan. 31, 2013, when the incident happened. Two teachers were in the room, but they may have been working on their computers.

At one point, the other student asked Johnson to pick up some papers Johnson had knocked over. He also asked one of the teachers to have Johnson pick up the papers.

Then, according to the suit, the other student got out of his seat, sneaked up on Johnson and punched him. Johnson was treated at a hospital for facial fractures and needed a metal implant. While still on the football team, he missed practices and spring games and must wear a special face guard when playing. The suit contends the incident hurt his chances for a scholarship, that Johnson does not feel safe at Freedom and that his parents have lost sleep worrying about him.

The Tampa Bay Times is not naming the other student because he is likely a minor.

He has had a history of disciplinary issues, had been suspended about a day earlier and should not have been at school, according to the suit, which alleges the administration did not notify the teachers about the suspension.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

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