Monday, December 18, 2017
Education

Former Hunsinger parents plan to sue Pinellas School District

CLEARWATER — Two parents have retained lawyers and announced they plan to sue the Pinellas County School District after their children were assaulted by fellow students at Calvin A. Hunsinger School in February.

The mothers say a lack of supervision at the Clearwater school, which serves emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children in grades K-12, caused their children severe, possibly permanent, harm. Both said they plan to sue for negligence.

One of the mothers, who lives in Pinellas Park, believes that on Feb. 8 an older boy raped her 8-year-old son in a school bathroom. The Times is not naming the mother to protect the identity of her child.

The third-grader, who is autistic, told his mother, Hunsinger principal Stephanie Bessette and school resource officer Joseph TenBieg that a "big boy" ordered him to pull down his pants, stood behind him and did something that "really hurt." A 14-year-old student was arrested that day by school district police on a charge of lewd and lascivious molestation, a second-degree felony.

But TenBieg, the mother claims, strongly advised her not to take her son to a doctor to be examined for proof of a sexual assault, saying it would further traumatize the child.

"I now think that was to cover it all up," she said. "I was scared and didn't know what to do, so I listened."

The mother, 40, said her attorney, Thomas D. Roebig Jr. of the Tampa firm Florin Roebig, served the district a notice of representation on March 1. Because Florida law requires a six-month notification period before suing a government entity, the lawsuit can't be filed until September.

The school district won't comment on any pending litigation, said spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra. Parra also would not provide a copy of the notice of representation or the district's response, saying those documents can be withheld under the state's public records law because they are part of the school district's risk management claims files.

Parra did say that an investigation of the incident is ongoing.

"I'm just outraged because it never should have happened," the mother said this week. "There is a serious lack of security and supervision at that school."

The school district, she said, sent her attorney a letter last week acknowledging receipt of the notice. On Thursday, the mother said, a district employee asked to record an interview with her son.

"But they won't be talking to him," the mother said. "They'll talk to me."

She doesn't yet know how much money she'll seek in damages.

"I just want to see things change," she said, "so the kids are safer."

Her son is now enrolled at Azalea Elementary School in St. Petersburg, she said, and is doing well, but he's still afraid to use the school bathroom.

The Pinellas Park woman is not the only upset mother who says she is preparing to sue the school district over an incident at Calvin Hunsinger School.

On Feb. 13, a female classmate beat up Lori Chauvin's 14-year-old daughter, Vanessa, outside Hunsinger as a male student shot video on his phone. He uploaded it to Facebook, intensifying Vanessa's grief, the Largo mother said.

"Every time she sees that video online, she relives the pain," she said. "I relive the pain."

The attacker, Chauvin said, had just walked out of in-school detention when she found Vanessa, grabbed her ponytail and repeatedly kneed her stomach and face.

Vanessa suffered a concussion, broken jaw and cracked eye socket, Chauvin said.

"She hasn't been the same since," she said. "My girl who'd always wake up at 5 a.m. now sleeps until 1 p.m. She won't get up. She just wants to lay in my lap."

Vanessa is now home-schooled, she said.

Chauvin recently hired Tampa attorney John Thurber to file a lawsuit. He plans to serve the school a notice of representation next week, she said.

"For Vanessa and all the other students," Chauvin said, "we need to fix this problem. The violence has to stop."

Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4224.

Comments
Top USF Health official leaves amid questions of assistant’s special treatment

Top USF Health official leaves amid questions of assistant’s special treatment

TAMPA — A high-ranking University of South Florida Health official has resigned amid internal concerns that he was giving special treatment to his assistant.After an internal investigation, USF System President Judy Genshaft was poised last month to ...
Published: 12/15/17
Hillsborough school district and its teachers are at a bargaining impasse, but still talking

Hillsborough school district and its teachers are at a bargaining impasse, but still talking

TAMPA — A months-long conflict over planned pay raises has moved to a new phase with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association declaring a bargaining impasse with the public school district.The two sides, which began negotiations in late spring...
Published: 12/15/17
Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here’s what it cost

Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here’s what it cost

Three months later, the Pinellas County school district has totaled up the costs of operating 16 schools as shelters for 25,000 evacuees during Hurricane Irma.The district is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for a reimbursemen...
Published: 12/15/17
Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

Love of science is the goal, now that every Pinellas elementary school has a lab

SEMINOLE — It was hard for the second-graders at Orange Grove Elementary to resist the urge to rush into the school’s science lab and tinker with the colorful objects neatly arranged on each table.Thursday was just their second time in the lab this y...
Published: 12/15/17
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

BROOKSVILLE — The new year could bring about new beginnings for at-risk girls in Hernando County.Pending a vote by the School Board next month, PACE Center for Girls, an alternative education program for middle- and high-school students, could open a...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17

Pasco school district, employees reach contract agreement

The raises for Pasco County school district employees aren’t as high as anyone would like, but they’re now part of a signed tentative contract deal reached just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.If ratified by the staff and the School Board, the agreements ...
Published: 12/13/17
For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

For Bexley students in Land O’Lakes, math skills go airborne

LAND O’LAKES — At Bexley Elementary School in Land O’Lakes, students are throwing paper airplanes — with the help of a high tech computerized launcher. They’re also bowling — with a little aid from computerized drones. And when they get around to it,...
Published: 12/13/17

Proposal to rollback early learning programs could bring Citrus into Pasco-Hernando coalition

Some Florida lawmakers have not hidden their desire to scale back the statewide number of early learning coalitions that oversee child care and preschool programs, including Voluntary Prekindergarten.The state Office of Early Learning has now issued ...
Published: 12/13/17
Brink Foundation, school district create Town ’N Country STEM hub

Brink Foundation, school district create Town ’N Country STEM hub

TAMPA — Elementary school students programmed an electronic mouse to make its way through a maze.Middle school students directed an electronic vehicle to stop on a dime, then use its arms to locate and lift a tiny cube.When the demonstration was done...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17