December 1, 2010
CONTACT: Micah McCoy, (505) 266-5915 Ext. 1003 or email@example.com
ESPAÑOLA, N.M. – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico joined a class action lawsuit against Española Public Schools (EPS) and private security firm ProSec Services on behalf of the “Española Eight,” a group of middle school and high school students who suffered vicious and relentless bullying at their schools. The Kennedy Law Firm first filed the suit against EPS on August 23, 2010 for the district’s failure to address a known bullying problem and their practice of employing private security guards who encourage and participate in the abuse themselves.
“Española Public Schools is failing to provide a safe educational environment for their students to learn and grow,” said ACLU Co-legal Director Phil Davis. “Their deliberate indifference has allowed bullying to go unchecked in the district’s middle and high schools. No student should have to endure the kind of abuse our clients have suffered; especially not from the very people they are supposed to trust for their protection.”
EPS currently contracts with ProSec Services to provide guards and security cameras at Carlos Vigil Middle School and Española Valley High School. According to the legal complaint against EPS, guards not only fail to supervise hallways and school bathrooms between classes, but they also promote student-on-student aggression. Students often upload video clips of these fights to the internet for the purpose of further humiliating their victims. In some cases, students were hospitalized for injuries sustained during these incidents. The complaint charges individual security guards with the rape of a minor student, selling drugs to students, inciting students to assault other students, battery and false imprisonment.
The complaint accuses school administrators at Carlos Vigil Middle School and Española Valley High School of ignoring the problem, even when victims’ parents filed multiple complaints. The Española Police Department is named as a defendant for refusing to properly investigate reports of student-on-student violence and using excessive force against students.
“In recent months, a rash of teen suicides across the nation has shown us just how devastating the consequences of bullying in our schools can be,” says ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Students have the right to receive an education without enduring harassment and violence at the hands of other students and school employees. EPS cannot continue with their attitude that violence is an unfortunate, but irreparable condition in their secondary schools.”
The Kennedy Law Firm, the Rothstein Law Firm and ACLU-NM seek relief for their clients against the policies and practices that create a dangerous and unreasonable environment in Española Public Schools. In addition, counsel seeks compensatory and punitive damages for suffering and injuries sustained by the plaintiffs.
ACLU-NM cooperating attorneys on the case include: Shannon Kennedy, Cammie Nichols, Brendan Egan and ACLU-NM Co-legal Director Phil Davis.
To see video evidence of the bullying epidemic, visit the ACLU-NM website at: https://www.aclu-nm.org/videos-violence-in-espanola-schools/2010/12/
For a full account of the allegations brought by the Kennedy Law Firm, Rothstein Law Firm and ACLU-NM, you can read the complaint online at: http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/07/13/Espanola.pdf